Patrick B. McGuigan, Publisher & Editor
The City Sentinel
For a time, after insisting on a “United” approach aiming to retain the monopoly-sustaining casino compacts, the Chickasaw Nation seemed to head off in its own direction. They said that the state attorney general’s idea of “arbitration” sounded good, and their high-powered lawyer said the tribe might be willing to renegotiate rates.
But all of that was, in the end, phantoms in the Oklahoma wind.
The trial balloon on rates had no change in gaming machine specifications to mirror Vegas requirements. It was perhaps intended to protect relations with Big Business Vendors – those out-of-state suppliers and middlemen who get several times the Vegas rate from cozy insiders’ deals fueled by monopolistic forces.
And arbitration went down in flames when the tribes – even other Big Tribes – balked at the idea. And then, just before Thanksgiving, the large tribes made noises that arbitration might be OK, after all. They started calling the state’s chief executive a used car salesman.
Chickasaw Gov. Bill Annoatubby said every tribe needs to improve its position. However, with $1.4 billion in annual Chickasaw revenues – of which only $200 million goes to tribal programs, with $3 billion in the bank for the Chickasaw Nation alone – perhaps it is time for the Big Tribes to sit down, give thanks and get in the holiday spirit.
Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt has remained steadfast, insisting that in return for casino gaming exclusivity – and what we have described as built-in (and dubiously acquired) market advantages – the Chickasaw and other major players should assure a higher net for Oklahoma taxpayers.
Thus far, Governor Stitt has focused only on the state government’s part of the equation, at least in public. He should now more explicitly become the champion of the 85 percent of the tribes (30+) who collectively garner only 15 percent of gaming proceeds — after decades of deals forged with the Bureau of Indian Affairs that are, for the Big Tribes, every bit the equal of Insider Trading.
There are mechanisms in existing compacts that would allow compensation for small tribes who have received a poor deal from bad BIA decisions, including conversion of “agricultural” lands into gaming properties in clear violation of environmental standards and fair play.
It would require the power of state government (or a timely assist from the federal level) to give force to those existing provisions.
To be honest about the rest of this: It would require an astounding conversion by certain leaders among the Big Tribes to agree they will no longer pay usurious rates to the Big Vendors, so that the state can be made whole and the 30+ small tribes be afforded a decent chance at a fair share of business and cash flow.
Stick around, readers.