Marlatt: OK gaming compacts need reevaluation

Oklahoma State Sen. Bryce Marlatt, R-Woodward, reiterated his opposition today to a planned tribal casino near Guymon, saying it’s time to reevaluate the framework of casino gambling in Oklahoma if the federal government is going to allow tribal gaming in areas of the state with no historical tribal connections.

The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) is considering placing land near Guymon purchased by the Shawnee Tribe into trust, thereby allowing the tribe to build a casino. The Shawnee Tribe has no historical ties to the Panhandle or its unassigned lands. The proposed site of the planned Panhandle casino is roughly 400 miles from the tribe’s headquarters in Ottawa County. 

State Sen. Bryce Marlatt, R-Woodward

“This would be a terrible precedent by the federal government to allow tribal gambling in lands where tribes have no historical ties,” Marlatt said. “This could open a floodgate of casinos and other tribal ventures on almost every corner in Oklahoma. This move is concerning to citizens in the Panhandle because of the societal ills associated with the proliferation of gambling. If this move is allowed by the federal government, then it’s time we seriously examine if it is in the best interest of the state to grant exclusivity to tribal governments to open and operate casinos in Oklahoma.”

Marlatt says his next step if the casino is approved by the BIA would be to examine what it would take for Oklahoma to become more open to casino-style gaming facilities beyond those currently operated by the tribes.

“The reality is this project’s approval is as much about expanding tribal sovereignty as it is about the expansion of gambling. If the Obama administration, in its last few days in power, grants a tribe the right to exercise sovereignty 400 miles away from anywhere they have any historical tie, then compacts negotiated with the understanding that casinos would only be allowed on tribal lands may no longer be the most benefit to our state and to our schools.

“The Shawnee Tribe has no more connection to Texas County than do any of the multinational corporations that operate the premier Las Vegas resorts and hotels. If we are going to expand gambling anywhere in the state, perhaps we should look at who the best operators of such facilities really are and whether they would agree to terms that would provide the state more revenue for critical needs like teacher pay,” Marlatt said.

The cities of Dallas, Texas; Des Moines, Iowa; Omaha, Neb.; Shreveport, La.; Memphis, Tenn.; and Springfield, Ill., are all closer to the Shawnee Tribe’s holdings in Ottawa County than Guymon. Seventy-five of Oklahoma’s 77 counties are closer to the Shawnee Tribe’s holdings in Ottawa County than Texas County.

The BIA Southern Plains Regional Office is holding a public hearing regarding the Shawnee Tribe Casino Fee-to-Trust acquisition and environmental assessment at 6 p.m., Thursday, January 5, at the Texas County Activities Building in Guymon.