File photo - Patrons play gaming machines at Riverwind Casino in Norman, OK. Wed. June, 3, 2009. Photo by Jaconna Aguirre Casino in oklahoma.
Oklahoma Indian gaming produced nearly $3.48 billion in revenues in 2011 — a 7.7 percent increase over the previous year's total of $3.23 billion, according to a report released early Wednesday by a California economist.
Oklahoma's 2011 Indian gaming revenue growth rate was more than double the 3.4 percent national Indian gaming growth rate, according to the 2013 edition of Casino City's Indian Gaming Industry Report by economist Alan Meister, of Nathan Associates Inc.
Nationally, Indian gaming generated about $27.43 billion in 2011, Meister reported.
Oklahoma tribes also generated about $493.4 million in nongaming revenue from patron expenditures on food, beverages, lodging, shopping and entertainment at gaming facilities in 2011, Meister said. That was a 7.9 percent increase over the previous year.
Casino City is just now reporting revenue data for 2011 because of the time required to gather, analyze and publish the report.
The report did include more up-to-date information on recent and planned expansions, including the Kaw Nation's plans this spring to open a 100 percent nonsmoking casino in Kaw City, about 15 miles northeast of Ponca City.
Pam Shaw, general manager of casinos for the Kaw Nation, said several tribes have tried nonsmoking sections of casinos, but as far as she knows, this will be the first and only totally smoke-free casino in the state.
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Shaw said people always say nonsmoking casinos won't make money but said she has received a lot of positive comments since the tribe revealed its plans.
“I think it's going to be good,” she said.
The Kaw Nation hopes to open the casino by the first week of April. It plans to start small with 78 electronic games, Shaw said.
If it does well, perhaps it will become a trend, she said.
Compact fee collection fell in 2011, rose in 2012
Nationwide, six large casinos opened in 2011, including two in Oklahoma — the Thunderbird Casino-Shawnee operated by the Absentee Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, with 254 machines, and the Golden Eagle Casino in Apache operated by the Apache Tribe of Oklahoma, with 240 machines, Meister reported.
While Oklahoma Indian gaming revenues increased 7.7 percent in 2011, the amount of fees the state received from tribal compact fees actually decreased from $122.7 million in calendar year 2010 to $121.7 million in 2011, state officials said.
Casino City's report provided an explanation for the decrease, noting that Oklahoma tribes decreased the number of table games in their casinos in 2011 and decreased the percentage of Class III games, while increasing the percentage of Class II games.
Oklahoma Indian tribes only pay fees to the state for the operation of Class III games — Las Vegas-style electronic games — and nonhouse-banked table games, like poker.
Tribes don't have to pay the state to operate Class I games, which include social games for nominal prizes. Nor do they have to pay to operate Class II games, which include bingo and similar games.
Some of the Class II games are played on electronic devices and are similar, in some respects, to Class III electronic games.
The number of table games in Oklahoma Indian casinos dropped from 813 in 2010 to 753 in 2011, a decrease of 7.4 percent.
The report noted that Oklahoma tribes steadily increased their percentages of Class III games from 2005 through 2008, while the National Indian Gaming Commission introduced stricter limitations on Class II games that would have made them less similar to Las Vegas-style games.
The percentage of Class III games rose from 10 percent in 2005 to 66 percent in 2008.
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However, the Commission withdrew the stricter limitations of Class II games in 2008, and the percentage of Class III games has steadily declined since then, dropping to 60 percent in 2011.
Tribes did pay more to the state in 2012, however. Compact fees to the state rose to nearly $127.8 million that year, an increase of 5 percent. A state gaming oversight official attributed the increase to new casinos opening with more total games, rather than a shift to a higher percentage of Class III games.
At the end of 2011, Oklahoma had 115 Indian gaming facilities that were being operated by 33 tribes. Those facilities housed 63,536 gaming machines and 753 table games.
Nationally, 242 American Indian tribes operated more than 341,000 gaming machines and 7,700 table games. The games were in 460 facilities located in 28 states in 2011, the report states.
Indian casinos supported about 339,000 jobs and $12.3 billion in wages, and were responsible for about $1.4 billion in payments to nontribal governments.