In western Oklahoma, a two-acre parking lot next to the Lucky Star Casino near the small city of Clinton now reportedly sits empty with concrete blocks barricading its entrance following a ruling from the National Indian Gaming Commission.
According to a report from The Oklahoman newspaper, the casino owned by the Cheyenne And Arapaho Tribes signed a deal in 2012 to lease the parking lot for $25,000 per month plus one percent of its gross gaming revenues. The agreement eventually ended up costing the federally-recognized tribe approximately $50,000 every month, which is a figure the regulator claimed was about ten times its actual fair market value.
However, the owner of the parking lot, Tom Fox, reportedly told the newspaper that the $1.2 million he is alleged to have made over the course of the 18-month deal was all above board while also declaring that the land even helped the Lucky Star Casino to increase its gaming revenues as its spaces had been favored by older patrons.
“I know the lease payments sound like they are excessive but the fact is $50,000 a month compared to what [the Cheyenne And Arapaho Tribes] were making is trivial,” Fox, who was subsequently forced to resign from his job with The Otoe-Missouria Tribe in order to avoid losing his gaming license, told The Oklahoman.
As a further justification, Fox told the newspaper that gaming machine vendors typically sign similar lease arrangements that include a percentage of gaming revenues and that he would have been prepared to negotiate a purchase arrangement had the Cheyenne And Arapaho Tribes ever approached him.
But, the National Indian Gaming Commission ruled that the contract for the parking lot had been a “clear violation” of federal aboriginal gaming laws that the regulator’s Chairman, Jonodev Chaudhuri, told the newspaper had been designed to protect gaming as a way for Indian tribes to generate income.
The Oklahoman reported that the investigation by the National Indian Gaming Commission had allegedly discovered that Fox had purchased the land using a down-payment of $150,000 received from Brian Foster, the former Director for the Cheyenne And Arapaho Tribes’ Gaming Commission. In an e-mail conversation, Foster is alleged to have laid out the scheme as well as his long-term plans for the parcel that would “keep the [National Indian Gaming Commission] out of the picture”.
Nevertheless, Foster told the newspaper that he had not personally benefited from the deal and that he had only provided the money as a way to protect the land from being purchased by another party that might not have been as willing to lease the plot to the Cheyenne And Arapaho Tribes, which also operates Lucky Star Casino-branded gambling venues in the nearby communities of Canton, Watonga, and Hammon.
“I never made a penny off that land,” Foster told The Oklahoman. “Parking is very important to a casino.”
In a prepared statement, Eddie Hamilton, Governor for the Cheyenne And Arapaho Tribes, reportedly explained that the tribe had cooperated fully with the National Indian Gaming Commission’s inquiry and that he was now looking forward to holding accountable “those people” that had “squandered away our tribal resources for their own personal gain”.
“My administration is dedicated to continuing these efforts,” read the statement from Hamilton. “In doing so, we hope to strengthen our tribes and provide a better future for our tribal members.”