Cherokee Nation Provides $1.3 Billion Impact on Oklahoma Economy

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker is joined by Oklahoma Lieutenant Governor Todd Lamb for economic impact announcement.
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker is joined by Oklahoma Lieutenant Governor Todd Lamb for economic impact announcement.

Source: Native News Network

TULSA, OKLAHOMA – Touting the phrase “A strong Cherokee Nation means a strong Oklahoma,” the Cherokee Nation announced on Tuesday the Tribe provides a $1.3 billion economic impact to the state of Oklahoma’s economy.

Tribal officials announced its impact Tuesday during a luncheon with several state, county and local officials at its entertainment flagship property, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa.

The research study shows, with the $1.3 billion economic impact, the tribe’s activities directly and indirectly support more than 14,000 jobs and provide more than $559 million in income payments.

“The Cherokee Nation is stronger than ever and, as a result, so is the state of Oklahoma,”

said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker.

“What is good for the Cherokee Nation is good for everyone in our state. From the number of jobs we provide to the services we administer to the local vendors we put to work, the Cherokee Nation positively impacts the lives of so many Oklahomans. And we’re not going anywhere. Essentially, the Cherokee Nation is a corporate headquarters that will never leave town.”

Since 2010 study, the Tribe has increased its direct economic output to more than $1 billion, which is a 25 percent growth. Cherokee Nation’s direct pay to employees has increased by more than $120 million, resulting in more than $375 million in income payments to its workers. During the same period, direct employment grew by nearly 250, reaching 9,244 employees, including contract workers.

“Cherokee Nation government and business operations continue to offer expanded economic opportunities in northeast Oklahoma,”

said Dr. Russell Evans, executive director of the Steven C. Agee Economic Research and Policy Institute, who authored the report assessing the Cherokee Nation’s economic impact on northeast Oklahoma.

“The tribe’s operations are a critical source of economic strength for the region.”

With its capital in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, the Cherokee Nation provides an array of government services, spurs economic development and provides financial support to the entire region.

Cherokee Nation works alongside county, state and local governments to improve roads and bridges, provide much needed funding to rural schools, ensure communities have good, clean running water and improve access to health care.

Cherokee Nation’s economic development engine, Cherokee Nation Businesses, reported record revenues of more than $715 million during fiscal year 2012. Along with supporting vital government services, the Cherokee Nation reinvests its business profits to create more Oklahoma jobs and further diversify its non-gaming businesses.

Beyond its direct investments, Cherokee Nation supports a number of local, diverse and growing industries that help drive private and public sector partnerships. The tribe assists with child care, career training and development, elder services and contract health. These services, as well as other services, are often met through the private sector and funded by the Cherokee Nation. This impact also comes in the form of goods or services purchased for Cherokee Nation economic activities.

For example, the tribe recently announced a $100 million investment in its tribal health care system, which supports more than a million patient visits each year. This type of activity spurs purchases and subcontracting to many privately owned small businesses throughout the tribe’s jurisdiction.

“It’s very eye opening to people when they begin to understand all the Cherokee Nation does for our state and, specifically, the northeast region,”

Baker said.

“We are extremely proud to support more than 14,000 employees and countless small businesses. As a lifelong small business owner myself, I know how important a strong local economy is and what it means to the people who live here.”

The report was commissioned by the Cherokee Nation and produced by Evans. He and his research team at the Steven C. Agee Economic Research and Policy Institute in the Meinders School of Business at Oklahoma carefully collected and reviewed data to paint an accurate picture of the Cherokee Nation’s impact on the state of Oklahoma.

Warm Springs Tribes cancel off-reservation casino


The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs voted during a recent Tribal Council meeting to officially end its pursuit of the Bridge of the Gods Resort and Casino in Cascade Locks. For all intents and purposes, the casino was a dead deal in 2010, when Gov. John Kitzhaber took office for a third term.


The proposed 600,000-square-foot facility on 60 acres of Port of Cascade Locks land was a lightning rod of controversy during its decade of life — which never matured from its planning stage to its implementation stage. The casino would have been located on a subtly beautiful tract of land between Interstate 84 and the Columbia River, near the Forest Lane exit.


A couple of years ago the casino’s environmental impact assessment was approved by the federal government and sent to the Department of the Interior for review. That’s where it sat for a year. Then, in January 2012, the Cascade Locks Port Commission allowed the deadline to expire for an option agreement on port land the tribes had wanted to purchase for the casino and resort. In the meantime, the tribal council built Indian Head Casino on Highway 26 in Warm Springs.

OK Casino Closes Suddenly, Leaving Workers Without Paychecks

About 60 employees of the Silver Buffalo Casino say they were supposed to get paychecks last Friday. But they haven't gotten those checks.
About 60 employees of the Silver Buffalo Casino say they were supposed to get paychecks last Friday. But they haven’t gotten those checks.

By Steve Shaw,

ANADARKO, Oklahoma – A power struggle between factions of the Apache Indian Tribe of Oklahoma has spilled into the operation of an Anadarko Casino operated by the Tribe.

About 60 employees of the Silver Buffalo Casino say they were supposed to get paychecks last Friday. But they haven’t gotten those checks.

They say the casino gave them each $200 in cash Monday, but that doesn’t come close to covering what is owed to them.

Donnie Cabannis says he’s chairman of Oklahoma’s Apache Tribe, and that the casino workers are getting stiffed because his rivals have stolen money that was intended for them.

“There’s a lot of corruption going on in our casinos now, and we need to take control of that,” he said Tuesday.

However, Tribal Administrator Ernest Redbird says Cabannis is no longer the Chairman. And he says Cabannis’ claim that money has been stolen is not true.

“I think um there’s been miscommunication of money being transferred from one bank to another,” he said.

Late Tuesday, we were told those casino workers would finally get their paychecks at 2 p.m. Wednesday afternoon.

New chair of Snoqualmie Tribe unsure about casino plan in Fiji


The new leader of the Snoqualmie Tribe of Washington isn’t sure what’s going on with a casino project in the island nation of Fiji.

The Fijian government announced a partnership with the tribe in December 2011. But the project doesn’t seem to have advanced much amid questions about the tribe’s leadership.

Those questions appear to have been settled by an election last month in which Carolyn Lubenau won the top seat. She told Radio New Zealand international that the tribe was looking into the casino deal.

A LinkedIn page for the project, One Hundred Sands, anticipated an opening this fall. The tribe also anticipated a fall opening.

“The Council has determined that this project is consistent with the Tribe’s priority to diversify economically,” the Spring 2012 newsletter stated. The Tribe’s ownership interest presents a unique opportunity to diversify the Snoqualmie Tribal gaming interests and to produce additional revenue streams for decades into the future.”

Get the Story:
US tribe’s involvement in Fiji casino unclear (Radio New Zealand International 7/2)
Snoqualmie Tribe celebrates election (The Snoqualmie Valley Star 6

Casino Battle: Why the Opposition to Spokane Tribe’s Anti-Poverty Plan?

Source: Indian Country Today Media Network

The Bureau of Indian Affairs issued a final report in February endorsing a large, off-reservation casino and hotel development for the Spokane Tribe in eastern Washington, but observers of Indian gaming say this doesn’t quite mean the tribe can start up the earth-movers.

The project requires both federal and state approval, and only five tribes across the U.S.—including the neighboring Kalispel Tribe, which is opposing the Spokane on this project—have been granted such two-part permission for off-reservation gaming in the 25 years under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

In addition, the Spokane’s quest to build a casino close to the city of Spokane, which has nearly 500,000 people in its greater metro area, has encountered strong opposition from groups that say what’s good for the Spokane would be bad for them. This includes the Kalispel, whose Northern Quest Resort & Casino is less than four miles away on trust land, and local business groups that fear the new casino could destroy the regional economy if it endangers the area’s largest employer, Fairchild Air Force Base. The Spokane Tribe’s property is about two miles from the base, which has raised concerns about encroachment of flight paths, potentially making Fairchild vulnerable to a future round of base closures by the federal government.

The BIA, in its final environmental impact statement, gives lengthy rebuttals to the encroachment issue, noting that Fairchild officials—as well as the United States Air Force—participated in joint land-use planning efforts and concluded the Spokane’s casino and hotel development does not pose a significant safety threat to the base. In addition, Spokane Tribal Chairman Rudy Peone and others say Fairchild is short-listed as one of the bases that could house the new Boeing KC-46 military aerial refueling and strategic transport aircraft. Supporters of the Spokane’s casino see this as a vote of confidence against closure.

Opponents of the proposed casino in Spokane County government and regional business say the BIA has not fully addressed the encroachment concerns and plan to keep fighting, likely lobbying new Washington Governor Jay Inslee or the Department of Interior’s Secretary-nominee Sally Jewell, who is the chief executive officer of the Seattle-based outdoor gear retailer, REI. They say 5,000 jobs at Fairchild are too significant to the local economy to risk for a casino project. “Communication now is really critical for people who want to get their voice heard,” says Rich Hadley, president and CEO of the pro-business group, Greater Spokane, Inc., which opposes the Spokane’s

The project would include retail space.
The project would include retail space.

proposal. Hadley and Spokane County officials previously stated that the 30-day comment period on the Final environmental impact statement, which ended March 4, was too brief. After a request from Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, (R-Washington), writing on behalf of the county, the BIA has extended the comment period to May 1. The Spokane Tribe wrote the agency to say it did not oppose the extension.

Still, Hadley said opponents will likely focus their attention on Jewell (if appointed) and Inslee. So, “when you think about who do you communicate with, you are probably naming them,” Hadley adds.

Ben Stuckart, president of the Spokane City Council, counters, “I really think a lot of the opposition boils down to economic encroachment. I don’t think that’s ever a reason to oppose a project that will bring jobs and alleviate poverty.” The city council split four to three to oppose a new casino. Spokane’s mayor, David A. Condon, is also an opponent.

Examination of the proposal—for which gaming would grow to 2,500 electronic gaming machines, 50 table games and 10 poker rooms—now goes to the BIA’s Office of Indian Gaming and, ultimately, to the Assistant Secretary—Indian Affairs at the Department of Interior, before the feds release a Record of Decision, an open-ended review process which is expected to take months. The proposal is for more than just a casino. The Spokane Tribe Economic Project also includes a 300-room hotel, several restaurants ranging from fast food to fine dining, a standalone big-box retail site along with a shopping mall, a 10,000-square-foot tribal cultural center and a tribal police and fire station.

The big issue for the BIA will be weighing benefits to the Spokane against harm to the Kalispel, several observers of Indian gaming say. On the benefit side, the casino will rescue the tribe’s economy, says Peone, citing roughly 50 percent unemployment in recent years and reduced funding to tribal services as once-robust timber contracts have shriveled. So has income from two small casinos—among the first in Washington—in the decade since Northern Quest has opened on the outskirts of Spokane. The Spokane Tribe’s two casinos are each an hour’s drive or more from the city. “It’s a no-brainer,” Peone says of gamblers going to Northern Quest. “So we really had a lot of cuts.”

On the harm side, the Kalispel have risen from dire poverty thanks to Northern Quest, which has recently undergone a $210 million expansion. The tribe, which has closed its enrollment at roughly 425 members since the casino opened, has constructed a wellness center and helps members with housing, health care and education. It also is robustly funding language preservation and other initiatives.

The Spokane Tribe, “should be encouraged,” that the BIA endorsed the full Class III gaming-plus-hotel-plus-retail option in the final environmental impact statement, says Ron Allen, longtime chairman of Washington’s Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe and chairman of the board of the Washington Indian Gaming Association. But, he adds, “When a tribe already has a casino and they want another location, a better location, the bureau takes that into serious consideration.” Also, Allen says, protection of a gaming tribe’s debt load is a significant and fairly new consideration for the BIA when weighing the risks of another tribe’s entry into the market.

The Kalispel Tribe, which did not agree to interviews for this story, has made protection of its revenue stream from Northern Quest a central argument against the Spokane Tribe’s proposal.

In a prepared statement, the Kalispel cite the conclusions of two third-party market-analysis firms: “[If] the Spokane Tribe is allowed to move forward with their proposal, it would devastate our tribe’s ability to provide services, such as health care and education, to our members, and we submitted comments to the BIA demonstrating that harm.”

Northern Quest is the Kalispel’s only method of funding tribal services, Chairman Glen Nenema has pointed out in letters to the BIA. He and others note the Kalispel reservation is small, remote and that much of it is a floodplain, severely restricting commercial opportunities.

Patrick D. Rushing is mayor of the city of Airway Heights, located between the Kalispel’s Northern Quest and the Spokane Tribe’s 145-acre site. He is enthusiastic about both projects. He says he’s optimistic about the chances of a new casino, citing a December 11 and 12 visit by Interior’s Assistant Secretary, Indian Affairs, Kevin Washburn. “He went out and looked at the Kalispel Tribe’s reservation and all of the improvements that were made and went through Northern Quest and saw all this nice stuff. The next day, he went out to Two Rivers and Wellpinit [on the Spokane reservation] and on to the Chewelah casino and could see the vast difference,” Rushing recalls.

In its impact statement, the BIA devoted an appendix to addressing the Kalispel contentions that a new casino will reduce its revenues by as much as 50 percent and will not expand the market. A report by the New Orleans–based Innovation Group in the final Environmental impact statement disputes this, offering many examples around the country of a new casino entering a market and all casinos seeing increased revenue.

Peone vows that the Spokane will develop the site with or without gaming. “We recently had our 132nd year since we’ve been placed on the reservation. I view that as survival. We’ve been here for thousands and thousands of years and we will remain. We will survive.”



Spokane commissioners oppose tribal project

Originally published Wednesday, January 30, 2013 at 11:58 AM

Associated Press

Spokane County commissioners, freed from an agreement that previously prevented them from commenting, have passed a resolution opposing the Spokane Tribe’s plan to build a big casino complex at Airway Heights, near Fairchild Air Force Base.

 SPOKANE, Wash. —

Spokane County commissioners, freed from an agreement that previously prevented them from commenting, have passed a resolution opposing the Spokane Tribe’s plan to build a big casino complex at Airway Heights, near Fairchild Air Force Base.

The commissioners on Tuesday afternoon voted unanimously to oppose the project in large part because they fear it could imperil the future of the base, which is Spokane County’s largest employer.

“We are literally being asked to gamble the 5,000 current jobs provided by Fairchild on a project that may provide significantly fewer than that,” Commissioner Todd Mielke said in a news release. “If we guess wrong, it will take decades for this community to recover.”

Air Force base officials have not taken a position on the casino, which would be about a mile from the base.

Leaders of the Spokane Tribe didn’t immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.

The Spokane Tribe is seeking rare federal approval to build the casino in the city of Airway Heights, miles from the boundaries of its reservation. A decision is expected in the next 45 days.

The project is opposed by the Kalispel Tribe, which already has a large and successful casino in Airway Heights.

In 2010, the city of Airway Heights reached an agreement with Spokane County commissioners in which the commissioners would remain silent on the proposed casino in exchange for payments to the county of $120,000 a year from casino revenues to deal with impacts. But the two county commissioners who supported that deal have since left, and the new commissioners threatened to sue if the agreement was not torn up.

The city of Airway Heights released the county from the agreement last week, and county commissioners wasted little time in voicing their opposition. The commissioners’ position will be sent to the U.S. Department of the Interior, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the state of Washington, which all must approve any proposal for off-reservation gambling by the Spokane Tribe.

Casino supporters say the project will provide revenues to lift many members of the Spokane Tribe out of poverty, and provide some 1,200 jobs in the region.

But opponents, including many Spokane area political and business leaders, worry the proposed casino is too close to the base and may prompt the Air Force to restrict operations or even close the base in the future because of encroachment issues.

Airway Heights continues to support the casino project.