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A Decade of Class III Gaming in Okla. Pumped Billions Into Economy, Boosted Education

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This week the 33 gaming tribes of Oklahoma are celebrating the 10th anniversary of the passage of State Question 712, a referendum allowing Class III tribal-state gaming compacts that have ushered in a new entertainment and hospitality market, while injecting billions of dollars into the state economy and millions into schools.

Over the past decade, the state's more than 110 tribal casinos have pumped $895 million in additional funding into state coffers, of which nearly 90 percent has gone toward education, including $122 million last year alone, reported

“That question [State Question 712] itself has created tens of thousands of new jobs, has increased economic activity in our state by billions of dollars, has created destinations all across our state where people come from outside our state to stay, play and spend money,” said Brad Henry, who was governor when referendum SQ 712 was put to vote in November 2004.

At a Monday luncheon at Hard Rock Casino, tribes commemorated the passage of Class III gaming through SQ 712 one decade ago. The casino is owned by the Cherokee Nation, which in fiscal year 2014 alone made more than an annual $1.3 billion financial impact on Oklahoma, and paid more than $13.6 million in exclusivity fees to the state. The tribe additionally supports 14,203 jobs in their 14-county area, directly employing about 5,000 people—75 percent of who are Cherokee.

The tribe's economic footprint has grown exponentially over the past decade. "In 2004, Cherokee Nation’s casinos generated just under $12 million for services to the Cherokee people. Last year, that number skyrocketed to more than $47 million," Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker said in a press release.

The Muscogee Creeks and Osage Nation are the next biggest gaming tribes in Oklahoma; they paid nearly $9.1 million and $5.8 million in exclusivity fees to the state in fiscal year 2014, respectively. In addition, the Cherokee, Muscogee Creek and Osage Nations pay a combined $2 million annually to Fair Meadows Racetrack in exchange for its not installing Class III electronic gaming, reported