Several Tribal Casinos In Oklahoma Will Remain Closed Through May 15

Apr 29, 2020

Updated at 4:34 p.m.

Four of the largest tribes in Oklahoma — the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw and the Muscogee Creek Nations — will keep their casinos closed through May 15, saying they are prioritizing their employees and the public's health over the pressure to reopen.

All four tribes closed their casinos in March. They have been paying their workers and say they will continue to do so until May 15.

Jason Salsman is the press secretary for the Muscogee Creek Nation. He says they want to see a decrease in the number of coronavirus cases before they decide on a plan to reopen.

"Our officials are talking with the right officials," Salsman said. "We're listening to science, we're listening to data. We're listening to health professionals on when is best to possibly start reopening."

Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby said in a press release that the tribe's historic sites, businesses and offices will also remain closed until May 15.

"Our leadership team continues to monitor the data on an ongoing basis as we work to develop a comprehensive plan for a phased reopening of our operations while being mindful of protecting public health," Anoatubby said.

During a Facebook Live video Wednesday afternoon, Principal Chief Justin Wood of the Sac and Fox Nation announced that government operations would be suspended until May 31st. Essential services will be by appointment only.

Sac and Fox casinos will also remain closed until May 15th. Wood says now is not the time to give up social distancing, as one elder died from COVID 19.

"We will continue to watch the impact reopening Oklahoma has on human life. If we all do our part over the next month, my desire is to see normal tribal government operations in June," Wood said. "My hope is that the premature opening of our state has not set us back."

Wood announced that Sac and Fox elders aged 55 and older would be eligible for financial assistance, regardless of where they live due to the hardship closures have caused.

Oklahoma has about three dozen tribes that have more than 130 gaming operations throughout the state.

As of Wednesday, more than seven percent of COVID-19 cases in Oklahoma were Native American or Alaska Native.

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