Nations Fuel The State

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Cherokee Casino & Hotel in West Siloam Springs. Photo courtesy Cherokee Nation Businesses.
Cherokee Casino & Hotel in West Siloam Springs. Photo courtesy Cherokee Nation Businesses.

Oklahoma’s 38 federally recognized tribes bring more than $10.8 billion of revenue to the state’s coffers every year, according to the United States Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. Up to 70 percent of that comes from tribal gambling operations.

Tribal government and business operations directly employ more than 50,000 people and support a total of 87,174 full-time jobs in the state, according to an analysis by the Steven C.

Agee Economic Research & Policy Institute (ERPI) at Oklahoma City University. Gaming accounted for more than half of those jobs, the report added.

Seven Oklahoma tribes participated in the study: the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Citizen Potawatomi Nation and Muscogee (Creek) nations as well as the Peoria and Shawnee tribes.

Chickasaw Visitor Center in Sulphur.
Chickasaw Visitor Center in Sulphur.

ERPI collected business and government data from participating tribes, compiled the data and extended it to all Oklahoma tribes on a per citizen basis in order to capture total tribal spending, business revenues and employment figures. Then, study authors used this data to determine the multiplier effect of tribal economic activities – the number of non-tribal jobs and income supported by the tribes.

“We have always known that the tribal operations and economic development activities of the Cherokee Nation and the other Oklahoma tribes have had a strong positive social and economic impact on our citizens and the entire state of Oklahoma,” says Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “Now, this groundbreaking study allows our contribution to the state to be quantified. Going forward, our desire is to continue to partner with the state government to achieve long-term growth for all Oklahomans.”

Chickasaw Nation members take part in the Chickasaw Nation Aeronautics and Space Academy (CNASA). Photos courtesy Chickasaw Nation.
Chickasaw Nation members take part in the Chickasaw Nation Aeronautics and Space Academy (CNASA). Photos courtesy Chickasaw Nation.

The study found that the tribes generated $5.6 billion from business activities, including professional services, hospitality and entertainment, gaming and retail operations. Tribal expenditures include $1.5 billion in direct payroll contributions and $792 million to Oklahoma entities for medical care, education, social services and economic development opportunities for tribal citizens.

While gaming is the biggest source of revenue, tribes have had significant success in other business operations and continue to diversify.

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