The Shawnee Tribe’s plan to build the Golden Mesa Casino near Guymon, Oklahoma has progressed at an unprecedented pace as the Governor of the state has given the tribe approval to build, completing a two-step process in record time. After an Environmental Assessment was conducted late last year and the Bureau of Indian Affairs found that no significant impact would take place due to the build, the first major hurdle was passed and now the tribe has completed the permission granting process.
Governor Mary Fallin has now given the tribe the go-ahead to create a casino near Guymon, a town of about 11,000 located in the Oklahoma panhandle over 400 miles from their tribal headquarters in Miami, Oklahoma, and less than an hour drive from four other states. It was announced yesterday that Fallin was in agreement with the findings of the federal agency, providing permission for the casino’s construction.
The Shawnee Tribe is a landless tribe that has been working for two years to receive approval to be able to begin construction on the project. Ron Sparkman is the Chief of the Shawnee Tribe, who issued a statement yesterday on the matter which read:
“…As a landless Tribe, the granting of land represents a historic event of indescribable importance to us. As we look ahead, we will extend the hand of friendship and partnership to the citizens of the Panhandle. As I’ve said on many occasions, we pledge to be a good community citizen by running a responsible enterprise with our respected operator, Global Gaming Solutions, and we will value the opportunity to work side-by-side with local organizations who share a common desire to find ways to build better and stronger communities across the Panhandle.”
Global Gaming Solutions is the commercial business of the Chickasaw Nation, who run over 20 casinos and gaming centers in the state including the largest casino in the U.S., Winstar World in Thackerville, at 500,000 square feet and offering over 7,400 electronic games, 98 tables games 46 poker tables, a bingo hall, Keno Lounge, and off-track betting.
It was in the year 2000 that the tribe was able to see their federal recognition restored after Senator Jim Inhofe won congressional approval for a measure named the Shawnee Act. This Act restored the federal recognition of the tribe and gave them the opportunity to secure land for their economic well-being if the land was located outside of lands that had been assigned to other tribes of the state.
While the tribe has been able to move past several hurdles, there may still be a fight ahead of them. Former U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, who while in office sponsored legislation help the Shawnee compete, came out against them with a statement on January 18 that read: “It was never intended as a blank check for the Tribe to go reservation shopping in unassigned lands. The Guymon proposal must be recognized as another illegitimate attempt to build in an area where it has no historic connection.” It is unclear at present if Coburn is now in the employ of competing tribes.