If we’ve learned anything from our experience over this past year, it’s that we need to be ready for anything, and, perhaps more importantly, that when we work together for the greater good, we can prevail even during incredibly challenging circumstances. I also know that for many, the value and importance of Tribal gaming and its contributions of revenue to states’ budgets, along with the good work that Tribes undertake on behalf of all states’ citizens, is more evident than ever.
In early 2020, Oklahoma Tribes were on track for a record year. Exciting entertainment offerings, new dining experiences, a robust slate of concerts and performances and expanded amenities were being added and, in the process, more jobs were being created for Oklahomans.
When the pandemic reached Oklahoma, Tribal leadership moved quickly to pause operations and establish safety protocols. Gaming facilities reopened as quickly as was safe to do, and by working together, OIGA members have weathered the pandemic thus far, and all of its ramifications, as best they can while always putting the health and well-being of Tribal citizens and Oklahomans first. Gaming facilities have taken innumerable steps to increase offerings and occupancy in a strategic, measured manner. As new protocols and safety tactics become available, Tribal gaming leaders work to implement them, and to share what they are learning as they solve challenges.
From the beginning, Tribes have worked hand-in-hand with local and federal officials on a government-to-government basis to exchange information, carry out programs and services and support their citizens while adhering to best practices during this COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, Tribes continue to advocate for and monitor legislation, both national and state, that will assist everyone with navigating this situation. The health and well-being of the people of Oklahoma is the top priority for our state’s Tribal leadership.
The New Year brings with it a better understanding of the importance of everything that we do as members of the Tribal gaming community. What will we do moving forward? We will continue to work together. We will continue to put our citizens and neighbors first. Tribal gaming allows us to create well-paying jobs, build rural economies and change our communities for the better, while still taking care of our citizens and members. Tribal gaming allows us to foster new business, provide scholarships and medical care, housing and nutritional programs for elders, early learning for our children, and so many other vital services.
In Oklahoma, we also look forward to healing the relationship between state and Tribal leadership, a relationship that became damaged under our Governor’s unwillingness to accept the plain language of Oklahoma’s model gaming compact and his continued unproductive rhetoric. It’s our hope that we can work toward repairing the relationship, and that the Governor feels the same.
The curveballs that we’ve all been thrown in 2020 have been difficult and tragic. Foreseeing the future is a tricky business. None of us could have predicted what we’ve seen over these past months. For us, taking each challenge as it comes, working together and always keeping the well-being of the people of Oklahoma in mind are the surest ways forward in this New Year.