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Tribal leaders, state treasurer express casino concern

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The Shawnee Tribe, based in Miami, Okla., has a $400 million entertainment resort with a massive casino on the drafting board. The plans also call for an 18-story, 400-room hotel; a 2,400-seat performance hall; and a bowling alley. The resort would be located just south of the Frontier City amusement park along Interstate 35 between E. Britton Road and E. Wilshire Boulevard.

Nearly everyone from city leaders to Oklahoma's congressional delegation to the governor opposes the tribe's resort venture. Other Oklahoma tribal leaders see problems with it, as well.

The Cherokee and Chickasaw tribes run two of the three largest tribal gaming operations in Oklahoma. The Chickasaws own 12 casinos across the state and have contributed more than $34 million in state revenues under the compact agreements the tribe signed with the state in 2005. The Cherokees own eight casinos and have given the state more than $24 million.

COMPACTS
The compacts between the state and tribes came about when Gov. Brad Henry moved into office in 2003. The governor, along with then-state finance director Scott Meacham, negotiated an agreement with the tribes that allowed for expansion of gaming in Oklahoma. The settled compacts gave tribes the right to operate Class III gaming, which is similar to Las Vegas-style gambling. In return, the state got a cut of the revenue and Remington Park was allowed to convert part of its facility into a casino. The move helped save the state's horse-racing industry. Remington's profits have skyrocketed since the agreements went into effect after a statewide vote in 2004 ratified the compact language.

Meacham is gravely concerned about the Shawnees moving into Oklahoma City.

"If you were to do something that were to shrink (Remington's) market share, then it shrinks the purses that go to the horse-racing industry, which is the whole reason we did this thing to start with, which was to save the horse-racing industry," Meacham said. "So there are some significant concerns about the impact (of the Shawnee resort)." "Scott Cooper

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