OKLAHOMA CITY – An American Indian tribe’s plan to build a $25 million casino in the Oklahoma Panhandle, which is hundreds of miles from its headquarters, has been approved by Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin.
The Shawnee Tribe is proposing a 42,000-square-foot casino near Guymon, located 366 miles away from the tribe’s headquarters in Miami . Supporters say the proposed Golden Mesa Casino will draw visitors from the Texas Panhandle, New Mexico, Colorado and Kansas and create 175 jobs.
However, some critics were concerned that allowing tribal casinos on land with no historical tribal ties could prompt state leaders to re-examine whether tribes have the exclusive right to casino operations and open gambling to anyone.
On Tuesday, Gov. Fallin announced that she agreed with the findings of a federal agency, giving permission to the Shawnee Tribe to move forward with plans for the casino.
“I appreciate the growing partnership our state and the tribes have developed and improved over the last several years,” Fallin said. “I believe the Shawnee Tribe has demonstrated its commitment to our country and this state. It is fitting that we follow the acknowledgement by Congress to offer this tribe the ability to self-determination and self-governance by allowing economic development opportunities.”
The Shawnee Tribe is a landless tribe. It was assigned no jurisdictional land of its own, forcing it to operate within the territory of another tribal government.
Because of the circumstances, Congress enacted the Shawnee Status Act in 2000, which enabled the tribe to begin a process of growth and recovery.
“I concur with the secretary of the interior’s determination that the Shawnee Tribe’s proposal will provide economic development to the Guymon and surrounding area, bringing in out-of-state dollars as it will draw from population centers outside our state,” said Fallin. “This will also benefit the Shawnee Tribe in helping it develop a funding source as it works toward self-determination and self-governance.”
Chief Ron Sparkman, with the Shawnee Tribe, released the following statement:
“On behalf of the Shawnee Tribe, we are very grateful to Governor Mary Fallin for approving our application. We are also deeply thankful to the many people in Guymon, the Panhandle and around the state who unselfishly worked over the past two years on this project. On a personal level, I am also most appreciative to my dear friend Governor Bill Anoatubby of the Chickasaw Nation for his kindness and willingness to help our tribe finally realize its dream of economic independence. As a landless Tribe, the granting of land represents a historic event of indescribable importance to us. As we look ahead, we will extend the hand of friendship and partnership to the citizens of the Panhandle. As I’ve said on many occasions, we pledge to be a good community citizen by running a responsible enterprise with our respected operator, Global Gaming Solutions, and we will value the opportunity to work side-by-side with local organizations who share a common desire to find ways to build better and stronger communities across the Panhandle.”