MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

October 26, 2009

What are the odds: Oklahoma’s Indian casinos are not required to reveal chances of winning

Millions of gamblers’ dollars flow freely into Oklahoma’s Indian casinos.

How much is returned to gamblers through winnings remains a secret — not published by the tribes and not required by state or federal law.

Oklahoma Tribal-State Gaming Compacts do not require or include a minimum payback (odds).

“Payback just wasn’t negotiated,” said Derek Campbell, gaming compliance lead for the Office of State Finance.

No federal or state law or guideline dictates payout percentages, Campbell said.

Some Muskogee County gamblers wish it wasn’t so.

“I wish there was some kind of regulation on it (payback),” said area businessman Steve Merrill. “There needs to be. I feel like I’ve just been donating. It seems like the longer the places (casinos) are there, the shorter the payback.”

Heavy-duty gambler Lawrence Jones of Muskogee said he and several friends used to regularly take $1,000 into local casinos at least four or five days a week and come out winners.

No more, he said. He noticed the payback going down almost two years ago and said the last two months it’s been getting even worse.

“They need to have a required payback,” Jones said.

He said he’s slacked off some, but recently each time he’s taken in $1,000, he’s left broke. He said he’s now playing about once a week.

The present Indian gaming compacts in Oklahoma won’t be renegotiated for almost 15 years, so the rules won’t change anytime soon.

“The theory (for no minimum payback requirement) was the state wasn’t going to micro-manage the gaming operations,” said State Treasurer Scott Meacham, instrumental in negotiating the compacts. “The tribes are sovereign.”

Although the payback is something self-regulated by the tribes, the force of competition will prevail, according to Meacham.

“If one pays higher than the other, the business is going to go to the one who pays higher,” Meacham said.

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