Choctaw Nation had a multi-billion dollar impact on Oklahoma's economy in 2018

Published: Feb. 6, 2020 at 5:25 PM CST
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The Choctaw Nation Chief announced Thursday that they have a multi-billion dollar economic impact on Oklahoma's economy.

The gaming compact agreement to operate casinos in the state could change where the tribe's money is spent in the future.

Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton said they had an economic impact of over $2.3 billion in 2018.

He said the renewal of the tribal gaming compact as it's written would help keep that money local.

"The gaming compact automatically renews, and we're going to fight tooth and nail to make sure that we keep it here in Southeastern Oklahoma," Batton said.

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt said as of January 1, the most popular games at Oklahoma casinos are illegal.

Chief Gary Batton said he along with other Oklahoma tribes believe the 15-year agreement, allowing casino gambling, automatically renewed January 1.

Batton said they've paid over $250 million in gaming exclusivity fees to the state since 2005.

"Most people don't realize it would not be an increase from the state it would just take money from our area that we're spending locally and turn around and give that to the state which they would disperse that out across the state of Oklahoma," Batton said.

In his State of the State address, Gov. Stitt said he wants tribes to pay more money, closer to what privately run casinos would pay in taxes if they were allowed to operate in Oklahoma.

"As governor I remain supportive of the sovereignty of the state of Oklahoma, and our right and your duty as the legislature to oversee all industries operating in the state," Gov. Stitt said.

Millions of dollars were spent on education, health services, housing, wages and benefits for working Oklahomans, and community programs to improve roads, provide senior nutrition, recycling, and youth camps.

Most of that money was spent in Southeastern Oklahoma, and that's the way Batton wants to keep it.

"We believe in local government control, I don't care if you're a school board member or if you're a city, that's where you want your dollars spent," Batton said.

The Choctaw, Cherokee, Chickasaw and Muskogee Creek nations are suing Gov. Stitt in Federal court.

Monday, Stitt told a judge he had no problem with other tribes jumping in on the lawsuit and invites any other tribe in the state to do the same.

A judge will decide whether the wording in the gaming compact means it automatically renews.