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Oklahoma sees incredible growth in tribal gaming industry

The Indian gaming industry in Oklahoma has grown from bingo halls to Class II-only facilities and now the state is home to more casinos than any other in the U.S.

The Muscogee Nation and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians were among the first to get into gaming. The Muscogee opened a bingo hall in 1984 and the UKBs started theirs in 1986.

“We were the very first in the United States,” Muscogee chief of staff Edwin Marshall told The Tahlequah Daily Press. “We fought the battle to the Supreme Court for the right to operate bingo halls and we won.”

Tribes evolved their operations by offering Class II machines that federal regulators said were illegal. After court battles that the tribes won, the state became the biggest Class II market during the early 2000s.

The industry began another transformation when voters approved Class III gaming in 2004. Today, nearly every one of the 39 federally recognized tribes has a federally approved compact.

“Currently, there are 92 casinos operating games under the compact, and 34 tribes have compacted,” Derek Campbell, the head of the Oklahoma Office of State Finance's gaming division, told the paper.“The first compact was actually approved and became effective Jan. 1, 2005.”

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Green Country slots (The Tahlequah Daily Press 2/21)