Gov. Fallin approves another tribal casino in Oklahoma

Gov. Mary Fallin is encouraging the growth of gambling in Oklahoma by granting permission for a large casino by the Shawnee Tribe near Guymon.

During her two terms in office, the number of casinos in Oklahoma has soared to 130.

Former U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, who in 2005 authored legislation to stop the Shawnee Tribe from building a casino in Oklahoma City, doesn’t want a casino in Guymon.  Fallin opposed the Oklahoma City casino when she was in Congress in 2008.

“The provision that the tribe is now exploiting … was never intended as a blank check for the tribe to go reservation shopping in unassigned lands,” Coburn said. “The Guymon proposal must be recognized as another illegitimate attempt to build in an area where it has no historic connection.”

Local city councils, county officials and others have formally protested to the federal government. Even officials in Texhoma, Texas, don’t want this casino.

Based in Miami, Oklahoma, the Shawnee Tribe is actually closer to Des Moines, Omaha, Memphis, Dallas and Tupelo, Mississippi than they are to Guymon in the Oklahoma Panhandle.

“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.”

Fallin, a registered Republican, has made no public statement about the economic problems and moral implications of the rapid expansion of gambling in Oklahoma.

Fallin did say she concurred with the findings of a federal agency giving permission to the Shawnee Tribe to build the casino near Guymon.

In 2000, U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe got congressional approval of a measure called the Shawnee Act, which restored the tribe’s federal recognition and gave the tribe the right to secure land essential to its economic well-being as long as that land is outside the assigned lands of other Oklahoma tribes.

The history of Shawnee migration in response to western expansion can be traced to the 1700s. Relocating to eastern Kansas on a 1.6 million-acre reservation in the early 1860s, the tribe’s land holdings were reduced over the years by the federal government.

The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs earlier determined putting the land into trust would be positive for the Shawnee Tribe and the Panhandle community. The governor’s review and decision was the next step in the two-part determination process.

The proposed Golden Mesa Casino to be built southwest of Guymon would create about 175 jobs and produce an annual payroll of about $3.7 million, according to Shawnee tribal officials.

The Shawnee Tribe is a landless tribe. The Shawnee Tribe was assigned no jurisdictional land of its own and operates within the territory of another tribal government. Congress enacted the Shawnee Status Act in 2000, which enabled the tribe to begin a process of growth and recovery. In the past, the federal government has generally required tribes to build casinos on their own reservations or — in states like Oklahoma where tribes don’t have reservations — within their tribal jurisdictional areas.