The Chickasaw Nation continues to expand its gaming empire, recently breaking ground on a $10 million casino in Terral, Oklahoma.
Although its a small town, the site is less than 2 miles from the Texas border, an important gaming market which currently only has one tribal-run casino, the Lucky Eagle, situated near the state’s international border with Mexico.
Vicente Villarreal, the town’s mayor, said to local news station KFDX “We’re hoping they’ll bring business in town and they’ll be employees hired from not only from here but from other towns as well.” Villarreal also said that he, along with other trustees were approached by the Chickasaw Nation for permission to build a casino.
The parcel of land in which the casino is to be built was placed into trust on January 19 by the Obama administration. A deed filed in Jefferson County bears the signatures of Chickasaw Gov. Bill Anoatubby and Eddie Streeter, a regional director for the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) usually prohibits casinos from being built on land placed in trust after 1988. But an exception in Section 20 of the federal law allows gaming on properties located within the boundaries a former reservation in Oklahoma. According to indianz.com, The Chicksaws have qualified for this exception repeatedly, enabling them to expand their gaming empire. It’s reported that in 2003, the tribe had more than 10 facilities on newly acquired lands and now owns and operates more casinos than any other tribes in Oklahoma or the United States.
The 36,000-square-foot facility, which is expected to be completed early next year, will include over 600 electronic gaming machine, 6 table games, a real shop and restaurant, and is expected to provide 150 new job positions, with an estimated $3 million in annual payroll.
While the construction is good news and welcomed by most residents and business owners, it is causing issues for others, especially for one family in particular. Electrical lines for the casino required trees in front of Sharon Keith’s home to be cut down. Those trees brought back fond memories of her daughter Samantha Jo Lezark, who was tragically murdered in 2003
“To some people, OK it was a tree, big deal,” said Keith. “Yes, it is a big deal. It made money for us every year, my kids played on it.”
Having said that, Keith also said she understands the benefits the casino will bring forth for her home town.
“And they’re talking about putting in a hotel, which will be good for the community I’m sure,” Keith said. “It’s dying, we don’t have any stores.”
Recognising the hardship this is bringing to Keith, the Major Villarreal said he wants to put up a memorial for Samantha where the tree once stood.