Choctaw Nation owns and operates the Choctaw Casino Resort in Durant, Oklahoma. Photo: Choctaw Casinos & Resorts

Tribes secure approval to offer ball and dice games in Oklahoma

The new leader of the Bureau of Indian Affairs continues to take action on gaming issues, this time approving the addition of ball and dice games at tribal casinos in Oklahoma.

In two notices published in the Federal Register on Friday, Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Tara Sweeney announced the approval of Class III gaming compacts between 13 tribes and the state. The move has been eagerly awaited in Oklahoma, where roulette, craps and similar can now be offered by the tribes who recently updated their agreements.

Ball and dice games were authorized in Oklahoma this spring in hopes of generating additional revenues for the state. The expansion became a key issue as public school teachers staged a walkout to demand more funding for schools, pay and benefits.

State lawmakers who pushed for the change anticipate an additional $22 million next year. That's on top of the revenues that tribes already share as part of their federally-approved Class III gaming compacts.

According to the Oklahoma Gaming Compliance Unit's latest report, tribes shared $113.9 million in fiscal year 2017. That was an increase of 1.44 percent from the prior year.

Since 2004, when voters approved Class III gaming, tribes have shared more than $1.25 billion with the state. The first agreements are due to expire in 2020.

According to the model gaming compact, all amendments -- such as the one authorizing ball and dice games -- must be approved by the BIA before taking effect. Sweeney, who formally joined the Trump administration just a couple of weeks ago, did just that this month.

According to one notice for the Choctaw Nation and the Fort Sill Apache Tribe, Sweeney approved their Class III gaming compacts on August 6.

She approved Class III gaming compacts for an additional 11 tribes -- including those that operate some of the largest gaming enterprises in the state -- on August 9, according to the second notice. The Cherokee Nation and the Chickasaw Nation are included in that group.

Sweeney is the first Alaska Native to serve as the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs and only the second woman to hold the post in its history.

Federal Register Notices

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