As we move through the final months of 2021, we do so with optimism and the faith that our industry is well on its way to another outstanding year, and we find ourselves looking forward to next year’s Conference and Trade Show, August 9-11, 2022, in Tulsa, OK.
Tribal gaming in Oklahoma has experienced a healthy rebound over the past several months as people feel safer and more comfortable getting out. There has been a pent-up demand for entertainment, fueled by intermittent lockdowns and uncertainty during the early part of the pandemic, which has contributed to the record numbers our industry has experienced. These numbers mean that our contributions to the education budget of the State of Oklahoma are growing, too, to the benefit of all.
Our Tribes and our industry have weathered a very difficult time, but with great leadership from our elected Tribal leaders working closely with their gaming operations, regulatory and healthcare teams, our gaming facilities are back open, offering a safe and entertaining experience for our guests. Oklahoma is home to the third largest gaming market in the United States, with more than 80,000 electronic machines on the floors of our more than 130 operations and several Oklahoma casinos and resorts are undergoing expansions.
Gaming legislation around the country is focused to a high degree on sports betting. In Oklahoma, we don’t yet know what a sports betting offering might specifically look like. If and when we get to the point of being able to offer sports betting, there will be appropriate discussion within each Tribe to determine how or if they might choose to proceed. Regarding additional tax revenue for the State of Oklahoma, the margins on sports betting are historically fairly narrow. That having been said, Tribal leadership is always interested in adding revenue to Oklahoma’s education budget.
When we reflect on how far we’ve come in Oklahoma, it’s hard not to feel pride. Tribal gaming in Oklahoma began more than three decades ago, with simple bingo halls situated in retrofitted buildings. Today, 31 Tribal Nations in Oklahoma currently operate 135 gaming facilities with approximately 72,850 electronic games, almost 5,300 bingo seats and other games, including ball and dice games added last year. Tribal government gaming operations include 20 casinos with hotels/resorts with a combined total of more than 5,000 rooms, and almost 500,000 square feet of meeting, function and entertainment space, and more are underway.
We are grateful to Tribal leadership who have navigated these difficult waters with grace, always giving top priority to what is in the best interest of their employees, guests, Tribal citizens and the surrounding community. It’s important to note that we are not out of the pandemic quite yet, and as we move forward into 2022, it will be with the same focus on the safety and well-being of the people involved.