Gaming Commission

200 North Water Ave. Tahlequah, OK 74464

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

What is considered “Indian gaming”?

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act breaks gaming activity into three (3) categories, each with its own regulatory structure.

Class I Gaming – Social games played solely for prizes of minimal value or traditional forms of Indian gaming engaged in by individuals as a part of, or in connection with, tribal ceremonies or celebrations fall into this category.

Class II Gaming – Bingo, pull-tabs, and non-house banked card games, generally, are considered Class II games that are regulated by the tribe with no involvement from the state.  While Tribes are the primary regulators of Class II games, the National Indian Gaming Commission also provides oversight of Class II gaming activities.

Class III Gaming – All other forms of gaming are considered Class III and may only be offered under the terms of a Compact entered into between a Tribe and a State.  This agreement will contain provisions that, among other things, prescribe the types of games that are allowed, how the funds are to be accounted for, and general gaming facility operating conditions.

How is Indian Gaming regulated?

Tribes, as sovereign governments, are the primary regulators of Indian gaming. Indian gaming is regulated on three (3) separate and distinct levels.

  • Primary - Tribes regulate themselves. With the establishment of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), tribes are mandated to establish a regulatory body (tribal regulators and commissions) to keep tribal gaming operations in compliance with all applicable tribal, state, and federal statutes and regulations.
  • Second - Under the terms of a tribal-state compact, the respective state identifies or creates a state gaming regulatory agency.  This agency will oversee the regulation of Class III gaming in areas that have been negotiated and included in the tribal-state compacts; the state has no regulatory authority over Class II gaming.
  • Third - The National Indian Gaming Commission generally oversees the regulation of Class II gaming on Indian lands; they possess no authority to regulate Class III gaming.   Other federal agencies are indirectly involved in Indian gaming regulation, such as the Internal Revenue Service, the Secret Service, and the Department of Justice.

What is the difference between Class II and Class III games?

Class II games are those in which a player competes against other players for a common prize whereas Class III games are those in which a player is attempting to win prizes from “the house” (i.e. the casino).

In the case of Class II electronic bingo games, players are using technological aides that allow them to be linked to other players in a common game, trying to be the first person to cover a predetermined bingo pattern. 

For Class III, also referred to as Compact games, a player is not required to be linked to other players in order for them to participate in the gaming activity.  In short, a player can play against the machine rather than other players.

What must a tribe do in order to operate a gaming facility?

The tribe must determine what types of gaming activities are allowed within the state in which the gaming facility is to be located.  If the state permits gaming by any person, organization or entity, then tribes are allowed to conduct Class II gaming activities without state approval.  A tribe and the respective state must enter into a tribal-state compact in order for Class III gaming to be conducted.

The land on which the gaming facility will reside must be considered Indian lands.  Indian lands are defined as all lands within the limits of any Indian reservation and any lands title to which is either held in trust by the United States for the benefit of any Indian tribe or individual or held by any Indian tribe or individual subject to restriction by the United States against alienation and over which an Indian tribe exercises government power.

The tribe must submit a gaming ordinance to and receive approval from the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC), the federal agency established to oversee Indian gaming.  After receiving approval on the gaming ordinance, the tribe must construct, operate, and maintain a gaming facility in compliance with standards established by the NIGC, the tribe, and, if applicable, the terms of a tribal-state compact.

What is a Compact?

A Tribal-State Compact is an agreement between two sovereign entities on matters in which they have a common concern and is the means by which tribes may offer Class III gaming at tribal gaming facilities.  In addition to being approved by the respective governing state and tribal entities, gaming compacts must also be reviewed and approved by the Bureau of Indian Affairs prior to becoming effective.  Tribes must also have a Class III gaming ordinance approved by the National Indian Gaming Commission as a precursor to the gaming compact.

The compact between the Cherokee Nation and the State of Oklahoma is contained as a part of the State Gaming Act in Title 3A of the Oklahoma statutes, which may be found at www.oklegislature.gov/osStatuesTitle.

How are gaming revenues to be used?

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act prescribes how gaming revenues may be used by tribes.  There are five (5) areas in which gaming revenues are to be used:

  1. To fund tribal government operations or programs;
  2. To provide for the general welfare of the Indian tribe and its members;
  3. To promote tribal economic development;
  4. To donate to charitable organizations; or
  5. To help fund operations of local government agencies

The Cherokee Nation currently receives 38% of the net profit from all Cherokee gaming facilities.

Do Cherokee citizens receive money from the gaming facilities?

Gaming revenues are not distributed to individual Cherokee citizens from the tribal government.  The Cherokee Nation Administration and Tribal Council allocate dividends paid by Cherokee Nation Entertainment, the tribal corporation that operates all Cherokee gaming facilities, to tribal service programs, such as housing, health, roads, and education.