Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry

Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry


Oklahoma Deal Calls for Racetrack Gaming

Indian tribes, the horse racing industry, and Gov. Brad Henry have reached an agreement on legislation that would allow racetracks to install gaming machines and regulate devices currently operating at tribal casinos. The measure now goes to the state legislature.

Henry announced the deal Jan. 20 in a press release that said the latest "compromise legislation" would be ready for action when lawmakers begin their 2004 session Feb. 2.

Under the terms of the agreement, Blue Ribbon Downs in Sallisaw, Remington Park in Oklahoma City, and Will Rogers Downs in Claremore would be permitted to operate "a specified number" of electronic gaming machines. The compact also gives "legal certainty" to machines already operating in the state and allows the state to regulate tribal casinos and share in revenue.

Henry called it a "win-win" for Oklahoma.

"Oklahoma already has gaming in more than 80 tribal casinos across the state," Henry said. "It's not going away. We can stick our heads in the sand and pretend its doesn't exist or we can regulate it, produce some new funding for education, and save our horse industry in the process."

Henry cited Chad Smith, principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, for working through concerns over the Choctaw Nation's purchase of Blue Ribbon Downs. When that matter was resolved, the negotiations were successfully concluded, he said.

Remington, the state's largest track, posted a nearly $8-million decrease in handle and a 28% decline in attendance in 2003.