New Tribal Gaming Ads Spark Controversy

Friday, February 7th 2020, 7:21 pm

An organization offering to tell what they call “the other side” of the tribal gaming compact debate is taking to the airwaves.

The governor and the tribes have been battling over whether 15-year gaming agreements, called compacts, expired Jan. 1 or automatically renew. That will be up to a federal judge to decide. Until then, expect to see TV commercials from supporters of both sides.

“Oklahoman families  aren’t getting a fair shake when it comes to our booming casino industry. The third largest in the country. Oklahoma casinos share just one fourth of what other casinos share,” one commercial said.

The group, Oklahomans for Fairness, said the spots are designed to educate Oklahomans about the deal the state has with the tribes.

“The lack of transparency. The lack of accountability. The way any average Oklahoman, average small business owner could be audited any day of the week by the state tax commission. Those rules do not apply to the casino industry in this state,” said Dave Bond of Oklahomans for Fairness.

Gov. Kevin Stitt wants to negotiate a better deal for the state. He said the entire compacts need to be reworked.

The tribes said they’re willing to discuss the percentage they pay, but the entire agreements shouldn’t be tossed. 

“Just some of that disparity, some of that unbalanced unfairness, that we’ve been seeing as we look into this more and more, a lot of folks don’t realize,” Bond said.

The tribes said the commercials aren’t accurate.

“A lot of conflation of corporate inflation rates. A lot of using numbers that don’t quite make sense,” said Matthew Morgan of the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association.

So who is paying for the spots?

“Our donors are supporting us to present these facts to the public and it’s a 501(c)3 nonprofit. We respect the privacy of our donors,” Bond said.

Morgan said the group should be transparent about who they are. 

“We would ask them to be just as transparent as we've been. If they have an issue, come talk to us. We’re always open and have an open door policy and want to talk about it but hiding behind anonymous donors is never helpful,” Morgan said. 

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