By Everett Brazil, III
The Newkirk Herald Journal
NEWKIRK — The Otoe-Missouria Tribe signed a new gaming compact with Governor Kevin Stitt and the State of Oklahoma Tuesday, April 21, promising new gaming activities at their casinos and more revenue to the tribe for tribal operations.
The Comanche Nation, based in Lawton, Okla., also signed a gaming compact with the state of Oklahoma April 21.
“The Otoe-Missouria Tribal Council is excited about the signing of a new Class III Gaming compact with the state of Oklahoma,” said Tribal Chairman John Shotton in a press release. “At a time when much is uncertain in our tribal government due to the COVID-19 situation, we have negotiated a new compact that provides stability for the Otoe-Missouria Tribe’s future in gaming for our tribes, employees, partners, vendors and our banking partnerships when things return to normal, and we are able to open our casinos again.”
Based in Red Rock, the Otoe-Missouria Tribe has five gaming facilities in Noble and Kay counties, including the 7 Clans Paradise Casino, Red Rock, 7 Clans First Council Casino, Newkirk and 7 Clans Perry Casino. The tribe also has smaller Gasinos at Paradise and First Council.
Oklahoma voters approved tribal gaming operations in State Question 712, the State Tribal Gaming Act, on Nov. 2, 2004. The Otoe-Missouria Tribe was one of the original tribes to have gaming operations, beginning in 2005. There are 25 tribal members of the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association, including the Otoe-Missouria Tribe, Kaw Nation and Osage Nation of Oklahoma. Other tribes with casinos in Kay County include the Ponca Tribe and Tonkawa Tribe.
The original gaming compacts were set to expire on Jan. 1, 2020, and Gov. Stitt was willing to work with the tribes to sign a new compact in the months leading up to the expiration date.
Many of the tribes believed the original gaming compacts would simply renew on Jan. 1. However, the Otoe-Missouria Tribe saw it as an opportunity to negotiate for a new compact that would be more beneficial to both the tribe and state.
“We stand in unity with the other tribes that the prior compact automatically renewed, but we saw negotiating a new compact as something that was in the best interest of our tribe,” Shotton said.
The gaming compacts regulate Class III games, which include games typically found in casinos, such as craps or black jack, according to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), passed in 1988.
Under the new compact, the Otoe-Missouria Tribe will pay fewer fees to the state at existing facilities, but there will be higher fees at any future location. Those new properties will be made eligible for gaming operations by the IGRA.
It will also allow for new gaming activities, specifically sports betting, which was not allowed under the previous pacts. That is expected to be a benefit to the tribe, as it may bring in more participation and traffic to the casinos, but also for the state, which will benefit with a 1.1 percent fee on each bet.
“If we were able to offer sports betting, it would definitely be a benefit to First Council, and we’d be looking at more revenue and staffing,” Shotton said. “By having a lower fee, we’d be able to bring in additional revenues to our tribe.”
The anticipated increase in gaming revenues will greatly benefit tribal and community operations, as revenues support many community activities, including tribal government, education, elderly services and direct service to tribal members.
“One-hundred percent (of revenues) goes back to the tribe. Every community we’re in, we’re a big partner,” Shotton said.
The new gaming pact is set to expire in 15 years, although it contains parameters to renegotiate the terms of the agreement, as needed. Although tribal and state leaders have signed the agreement, it must still be ratified by the U.S. Department of the Interior, which can take as long as 45 days to ratify.
Once in place, it is hoped the new act will be a great service to the Otoe-Missouria Tribe and the state, and have many positive benefits for years to come.
“I believe the tribe has an opportunity to see great revenue, especially if we open new facilities,” Shotton said. “With the expansion of gaming, I think our patrons will enjoy more gaming volume. That will bring in more people, more excitement at First Council. We’ll bring in lots of people from out of state, Kansas, Missouri, so it’s definitely a benefit to First Council.”