Oklahoma Tribal gaming properties statewide have temporarily ceased operations to prevent the further spread of coronavirus, according to officials of the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association (OIGA).
As the second-largest Indian gaming market nationwide, just shy of California, Oklahoma produces roughly $4.4 billion in annual gaming revenues, reveals the latest Casino City Indian Gaming Industry Report.
According to a 2019-released economic impact report, Oklahoma Tribes have paid more than $1.5 billion in exclusivity fees to the state since 2006 — not counting the 2020 payments, which gaming Tribes have continued to forward to Oklahoma in spite of the ongoing dispute with Gov. Kevin Stitt about the automatic renewal of their gaming compacts on January 1. Throughout much of 2019, Stitt has argued that Oklahoma Tribes should pay more for the exclusive right to operate Class III games in the state. Meanwhile, he has contended that Tribal-state gaming compacts did not automatically renew on the first day of 2020, and that Tribal casinos have been operating illegally.
For now, those issues can rest. The state and country have much greater issues at stake — stemming the outbreak of COVID-19.
On their own accord, gaming Tribes across Oklahoma opted to close their casino doors, united by the common commitment to protect public health.
“Nothing is of greater importance to the Tribes than the health and well-being of the citizens of their Nations and the citizens of Oklahoma,” OIGA Chairman Matthew L. Morgan said in a statement. “We always want to be good neighbors and to lead by positive example. In making the decision to temporarily suspend our gaming operations, we are hopeful that we will have a positive impact on the health of Oklahomans.”
Each Tribal Nation is taking precautionary measures and releasing COVID-19 response plans and protocols, available on OIGA’s website at https://oiga.org/news/covid-19/.