Oklahoma Casinos' Effect on Fort Smith Largely a Mystery

by Eric Francis  on Monday, Sep. 9, 2013 12:00 am  

“We have membership with all the surrounding chambers — Rogers-Lowell, Fort Smith, Poteau [Okla.] — and somebody from our organization participates in their events and activities,” said Taylor. “The casino is very involved in the community and does dozens of sponsorships, makes donations to a lot of local organizations: the university, the state fair, the Arkansas-Oklahoma fair. And we have advertising in all the surrounding cities.”

In addition, the casino makes purchases in Fort Smith when it needs prizes for giveaways, letterhead, printing and so forth. Throw in the tourism dollars and it’s “a huge trickle-down effect,” she said.

“I don’t know how a city could evaluate that impact,” Taylor said.

Last year, at a topping-out ceremony for the Choctaw Casino, Janie Dillard, executive director of gaming, and the Choctaw Tribal Council said even its smaller predecessor had 500 employees and an annual payroll of $11 million. The bigger — 150,000-SF — replacement casino was expected to have almost twice as many employees

Tim Landis, who oversees public relations for the Cherokee casinos in Oklahoma, said that he couldn’t release information on gaming revenue or the number of guests from Arkansas who visit their facility in Roland, calling it proprietary due to the competing Choctaw Casino down the road in Pocola. He offered to get someone on the casino’s management team in touch with Arkansas Business to talk about employment of Fort Smith residents and partnerships with the city, but wasn’t heard back from by deadline.

A July 2013 report from the National Indian Gaming Commission, a federal agency, indicated that 64 Indian gaming operations in Kansas and eastern Oklahoma brought in $2 billion during 2012. And a 2011 report titled “Where the Casino Money Goes,” available on Cherokee.org, said that in 2010 the Cherokee Nation cleared $455 million in revenue from its eight Oklahoma casinos.

Eric Francis is a freelance journalist living in North Little Rock.



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