Tribal gaming enterprises continue to grow year over year

Tribal gaming enterprises in Oklahoma generated $191.5 million in FY 2022. (Photo by Kathryn McNutt)

By Heide Brandes The Journal Record

Year over year, with the exception of 2020, tribal gaming enterprises in Oklahoma continue to grow, and fiscal tear 2021-22 shaped up to be a banner year when it came to visits, revenue generated and gaming exclusivity fees paid to the state.

The Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association Oklahoma Gaming Compliance Unit’s Fiscal Year 2022 Annual Report, the State of Oklahoma collected over $191.5 million in tribal gaming exclusivity fees in fiscal year 2022 under state-tribal gaming compacts.

So far, the FY 2022-23, which ended in June, looks to be on track with the same trend.

“We are tracking some numbers here at the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association, and we are continuing to build and grow stronger,” said Matthew Morgan, OIGA chairman. “I think we may break that $200 million market in terms of exclusivity fees, so we continue to grow.”

The exclusivity fees collected in FY 2022 showed an 18% increase over the previous year. Overall, Oklahoma’s tribes generated more than $3.19 billion in revenue in Class III electronic gaming and non-banked card games at the 133 tribal-owned casinos in the state. Since 2005, exclusivity payments to the state, which was a voter-approved state/tribal compact, the growth of payments have continuously grown year-over-year, with the exception of 2014 and 2020.

The fees paid to the state go to the Education Reform Revolving Fund, the General Revenue Fund and the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. In 2022 alone, those fees provided $23 million to the state’s general fund and $168.3 million to Education Reform. The DMHSAS received $250,000, which is an annual set rate.

Expansion fuels growth

This year also saw major expansions in the state’s tribal gaming world. The Chickasaw Nation WinStar opened a new pool and hotel tower, and are on board to open up a new entertainment facility in late summer or early fall. The Choctaw Nation’s Durant facility continues its expansion with the building of a new facility with gaming in Hochatown, and the Apache Tribe is currently building a new facility in Devol with 800 slot machines, table games and a Lonestar Steakhouse.

The Wichita and Affiliated Tribes are building a hotel next to their Hinton gaming facility while The Osage Tribe continues to build up their facilities in Osage County.

“I think that people continue to see a strong entertainment market, and the tribes feel that they can compete and drive customers to their properties and shows with new added value,” said Morgan.

The Choctaw Nation topped the list of exclusivity payments of the 33 tribes operating 133 facilities offering Class III gaming related to the state-tribal gaming compacts with $42,023,914.00 paid in exclusivity fees. The Chickasaw Nation followed with $17,325,209.69 paid in exclusivity fees.

According to Chairman Gary Batton, 2022 was a banner year for the tribe. In March 2022, Choctaw Casinos & Resorts announced the launch of Choctaw Slots, a free-to-play gaming experience available on all mobile application platforms, including Facebook and online at

Another win for the Choctaw Nation in March was the opening of Chop House at the Choctaw Casino & Resort in Grant and was nominated for “Casino of the Year – Theater” award in the 57th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards.

In May 2023, Choctaw Casinos & Resorts earned the “Silver Medal” 2023 Tribal Gaming Operator of the Year at the annual SBC Awards, which recognizes tribal gaming operators that have experienced significant expansion and growth.

“This award recognizes our ability to grow and expand responsibly. It’s such an honor to be recognized along with some of the best in our industry,” said Heidi Grant, executive officer of gaming and hospitality for Choctaw Casinos & Resorts.

The number of electronic game machines also rose statewide, seeing a monthly average of 44,604 Class III machines compared to 41,891 in FY 2021. Oklahoma’s tribal gaming industry joins the 981 casinos nationwide that created a FY 2022 $261.36 billion economic impact. More than 1.8 million jobs were created by the U.S. gaming industry with a total tax impact and tribal revenue share of $40.79 Billion. Gross, the 2022 gaming revenue topped $99 billion.

“Our members continue to meet and discuss ways to grow and make our industry better,” Morgan said. “We also understand that as an industry, we need to move forward together. So we’re always open to sit down at that table and see what else we can do to help grow our industry to make it better.”

According to OIGA, the economic impact from tribal gaming to the state from both construction and operations is estimated to equal just over $2.2 billion annually, giving a total economic impact of $7.2 billion from annual operations and construction. Of that, 60 percent occurred in rural areas.

“Thirty-plus percent of our visitors come from out of state, so we are bringing in tourists’ dollars that would otherwise not be here and bringing in a lot of jobs and economic activity,” Morgan said.

Bumps in the road: State and tribal officials face problems with Oklahoma turnpike tolls

photo courtesy of Oklahoma Turnpike Authority

By Graycen Wheeler, KOSU

You may have noticed some changes on your trips down Oklahoma’s turnpikes over the past couple of years. Instead of rolling to a stop at a toll booth and scrounging for cup holder quarters, you can now zip under a camera that takes a picture of your license plate.

The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority started using this cashless system, which they call PlatePay, in 2021. Now most of the state’s turnpikes use it, letting drivers bypass toll booths, which are hot spots for fender benders.

“With the new open road tolling, we don't want you to stop,” OTA Deputy Director Joe Echelle said. “We don't want to have those kinds of accidents. The accident rate is really high, so we send people straight on through.”

But for about 1 in 20 vehicles on the road, the system doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to. Sometimes it takes a picture but can’t read the license plate.

“Either they're pulling a trailer or their tailgates down or there's mud or snow or something on the license plate that blocks the image,” Echelle said.

Other times, the PlatePay reader takes a good picture, but the OTA can’t connect that tag number to registration information. This happens with temporary paper tags and tags from Canada and Mexico, which are legal to use in the U.S. It happens with tags from some other states and from some tribal nations.

The issue with tribal tags was thrust into the limelight last month when Gov. Kevin Stitt brought it up in a press conference.

“The Turnpike Authority let me know that since we instituted PlatePay — so that's where they read your license plates — we have lost $4.7 million that we can't read tribal license plates. They're not in our system,” Stitt said. “That means they're driving on our turnpikes without paying the toll that everybody else does.”

At that press conference, Stitt announced he was suing Oklahoma’s legislative leaders for overriding his vetoes on tribal compact agreements. Those are financial agreements with tribal governments about how to divvy up taxes and revenues. One of them was about motor vehicle registration.

“Let's make our roads free for every single person or let’s treat everybody exactly the same way,” he said. “We can't have someone with Native heritage driving on our turnpikes, not paying a toll.”

Stitt used this example alongside recent court cases about how state and municipal governments recognize aspects of tribal sovereignty on reservation land.

But the unbilled turnpike trips aren’t part of any such legal action.

The Cherokee Nation accounts for about a third of the unbilled tribal plate tolls, but Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. has said the tribe wasn’t aware of the issue until recently.

“The Cherokee Nation has committed to working with Service Oklahoma and DPS to assist with implementation of the PlatePay system,” Hoskin said in a statement. “Oklahoma’s decision to move to PlatePay didn’t involve the Cherokee Nation, but we remain open to assisting the state in accomplishing its law enforcement goals.”

In fact, the OTA has taken responsibility for the issue.

“The issue that exists is not necessarily the tribal plate,” Echelle said. “It's not the tribe that's issuing the license plate. It's our moving to this open road tolling thing that's causing it.”

Because of the bug, turnpike travelers with tribal tags did rack up nearly $5 million of unbilled tolls just between mid-May and mid-July. The OTA projects that over a full year, those numbers could reach $11 million for tribal tags and $7 million for paper temp tags.

“We've had several individual drivers that have tribal plates that have racked up, you know, $700 or more in plate pay transactions,” Echelle said. “We don't have anywhere to mail the invoice.”

Echelle says the OTA is looking to develop agreements with the tribes to share vehicle registration information. And Hoskin says the Cherokee Nation is committed to working with the state agencies on PlatePay implementation.

But Stitt has taken matters into his own hands. On Friday, he announced he’d requested an extension to the Cherokee Nation’s car tag compact with language to address the PlatePay snafu. The existing ten-year compact was set to expire this month, but the state legislature had already approved an extension. They overrode Stitt’s veto on it the same day he announced the lawsuit.

Hoskin says in a statement, there’s no need to amend the compact, because the Cherokee Nation is already working with the state.

“Since the Nation has committed to working with the state on PlatePay, there is no reason to amend the compacts,” Hoskin said in a statement. “These compacts have served Oklahomans well for twenty years, and thanks to the work of the legislature they will continue to serve Oklahomans well into the future.”

While the courts sort that out, the OTA has implemented an online pay option, which allows turnpike travelers to register their tribal or temp tag so PlatePay will work.

KOSU's Kateleigh Mills contributed to this story.

Chickasaw Nation offering multiple cultural activities

The Chickasaw Nation is offering an assortment of activities and workshops for Chickasaws, First Americans and those interested in learning more about Chickasaw culture throughout the year.

SULPHUR, Okla. – The Chickasaw Nation is offering an assortment of activities and workshops for Chickasaws, First Americans and those interested in learning more about Chickasaw culture. These events are varied and take place throughout the year.

Upcoming events include art classes with Mary Wilds and Leanne Parker West. Other activities include the Chipota Chikashshanompoli (Children Speaking Chickasaw Language Club) and numerous Chickasaw Community Choir practices. These activities are open to the public and all ages.

Handmade Postcards with Mary Wilds

Chickasaw artist Mary Wilds will be sharing her artistic abilities with others in a one-of-a-kind handmade postcard workshop. Using a range of mediums, participants will create unique postcards stamped with each artist’s personal touch. Creating postcards is quick and easy to learn and requires little concentration as designs are completed.

Wilds recently moved from Norfolk, Virginia, to Sulphur, Oklahoma. Living in the Chickasaw Nation treaty territory has given her many opportunities to participate in tribal activities. These include participating with the Chickasaw Dance Troupe and weaving at Mahota Studios, located inside the ARTesian Gallery & Studios. Her artwork has been shown in many locations and has won numerous awards.

The handmade postcards workshop will take place from 10 a.m. to noon Sept. 9 and 23 at the ARTesian Gallery & Studios, 100 W. Muskogee Ave., Sulphur, Oklahoma.

There will be a $10 fee that includes instruction and materials. To register for classes and workshops, or for more information regarding other upcoming events, call (580) 622-8040 or email

Art Classes with Leanne Parker West

Public art classes taught by artist Leanne Parker West (Muscogee Creek) will take place at the ARTesian Gallery & Studios, 100 W. Muskogee Ave., Sulphur, Oklahoma, on select Wednesdays from 4 to 6 p.m. The dates include Aug. 23, Sept. 13, 23 and 27.

Additional classes will take place at the ARTesian Gallery & Studios on select Saturdays from 1 to 3 p.m. These dates include Aug. 26, Sept. 16 and 30.

West has been a junior high and high school art teacher for more than 20 years. She is a local artist in Sulphur, Oklahoma. As a recurring art instructor for Chickasaw Nation Summer Arts Academy, she has worked with hundreds of Chickasaw children.

There will be a $10 fee that includes instruction and materials. To register for classes and workshops, or for more information regarding other upcoming events, call (580) 622-8040 or email

Chipota Chikashshanompoli (Children Speaking Chickasaw Language Club)

Chipota Chikashshanompoli is designed to use interactive teaching techniques, games, activities and stories to teach the Chickasaw language. Eligible participants must be between the ages of 2 and 13. Food and drinks will be provided.

Meetings in Ada will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Chickasaw Nation Community Center, 700 N. Mississippi, Ada, Oklahoma, Sept. 18, Oct. 23, Nov. 20 and Dec. 18. Dates for 2024 include Jan. 22, Feb. 26, March 18, April 22 and May 13.

Meetings in Ardmore will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Chickasaw Nation Community Center, 907 Locust St., Ardmore, Sept. 11, Oct. 16, Nov. 13 and Dec. 11. Dates for 2024 include Jan. 8, Feb. 12, March 11, April 15 and May 6.

For more information, call the Chickasaw Nation Language Preservation Division at (580) 272-5318 or email

Chickasaw Community Choir Practice

Engage with the Chickasaw community by attending Chickasaw Community Choir practice. Practice takes place each month at local Chickasaw Nation Community Centers. Practice is open to the public, at all ages and skill levels. Learning Choctaw hymns strengthens the connection to Chickasaw culture.

All classes are from 6 to 8 p.m., taking place in Ada, Ardmore, Oklahoma City and Tishomingo.

Chickasaw Community Choir practices will take place in Ada at the Chickasaw Nation Community Center, 700 N. Mississippi Ave., Ada, Oklahoma. Classes will be Sept. 7 and Nov. 3.

Chickasaw Community Choir practices will take place in Oklahoma City at the Chickasaw Nation Community Center, 4001 NW 39th St., Oklahoma City, Aug. 18, Sept. 15, Oct. 20 and Nov. 17.

Chickasaw Community Choir practices take place in Ardmore at the Chickasaw Nation Community Center, 907 Locust St., Ardmore, Oklahoma, Sept. 8, and Oct. 13.

Chickasaw Community Choir practices take place in Tishomingo at the Chickasaw Nation Community Center, 818 E. 6th St., Tishomingo, Oklahoma, Aug. 25, Sept. 22, Oct. 27 and Nov. 30.

For more information, contact the Chickasaw Nation Language Preservation Division at (580) 272-5318 or email

Comanche Red River Hotel Casino Names “Summer Night Drive” and “Fun in the Sun” Grand Prize Winners

James, Wichita Falls, wins a Polaris Sportsman

Two winners drive away in style with Polaris powersport vehicles and a Ford Bronco

DEVOL, Okla. - Comanche Nation Entertainment has named two winners for its “Summer Night Drive” and “Fun in the Sun” promotional drawings. The “Summer Night Drive” drawing took place on July 29, naming Wichita Falls resident David the winner of a brand new full-sized 2023 Ford Bronco. The following week, the “Fun in The Sun” promotion named James, also from Wichita Falls, the winner of both a Polaris Sportsman and RZR PRO XP.

“These giveaways are just a few examples of the many ways we commit to providing exceptional entertainment and unforgettable experiences to our valued guests,” said Mia Tahdooahnippah, CEO of Comanche Nation Entertainment.

Throughout June and July, Comanche Red River Hotel Casino held two promotions where guests could play various games to earn entries into grand prize drawings. Each drawing offered guests the chance to drive away in either a Ford Bronco or two Polaris vehicles.

David, Wichita Falls, wins a new Bronco

David’s new SUV is renowned for its blend of classic design and modern features, built for navigating city streets and going on off-road adventures. It offers a spacious and comfortable interior, optimizing the driving experience for both drivers and passengers.

James’ Polaris Sportsman and RZR PRO XP are built to tackle diverse landscapes. Each Polaris vehicle features Ride Command+, which checks the vehicle's health, location and maintenance schedule from the palm of the driver’s hand.

“Summer Night Drive” and “Fun in the Sun” are part of Comanche Nation Entertainment’s efforts to deliver an unparalleled gaming and entertainment experience to its guests. Throughout its seven casinos and travel plaza, each property holds monthly promotions and giveaways to reward its guests and local community.

Comanche Red River Hotel Casino is open 24 hours a day seven days a week. To learn more about Comanche Red River Hotel Casino, visit


Comanche Nation Entertainment operates Comanche Nation Casino in Lawton, Comanche Red River Hotel Casino in Devol, Comanche Spur Casino in Elgin, Comanche Star Casino in Walters, Comanche War Pony Casino in Devol and Comanche Cache Casino in Cache. Its Comanche Travel Plaza, Smoke Shops and Quick Stops are located throughout Southwest Oklahoma.

True to its tribal heritage, Comanche Nation Entertainment is committed to family. It treats its team members like family and supports vital community services in the towns where it operates. Its mission at all of its properties is to provide a fun and exciting experience for guests, a safe and rewarding environment for team members and prosperity for the Comanche Nation.

For more information on Comanche Nation Entertainment properties, visit or follow the company on Facebook.