Community , Government , Business

ON Congress passes bills allowing armed casino security

After a two-day January special session, the Fifth Osage Nation Congress approved two amendments to the Nation’s gaming law that authorizes Osage Casino security personnel to be armed and use force if necessary while on duty.

The ON Gaming Enterprise Board, casino management and Congress members worked on the legislation before passing the bills on Jan. 18. Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear signed the bills into law after the session ended.

At the start of the Jan. 17 session, Standing Bear said: “The recommendation from the gaming board is for legislation authorizing armed security personnel for Osage Casinos. There is currently no legislation approved to have armed security officers at Osage Casinos … The training levels for the casino security would match or exceed current expectations for CLEET-certified armed security officers utilized throughout the state of Oklahoma and the United States.”

The Congress passed bill ONCA 18-02 (sponsored by Congresswoman Maria Whitehorn), which is an “Act to insert a new section on lawful use of force by security personnel” into the Osage gaming law.

During a Congressional Commerce, Gaming and Land Committee meeting to discuss the legislation, Whitehorn said casino security was armed in earlier years, but the practice stopped 2-3 years ago when the Nation’s Gaming Commission advised there was nothing in law to authorize the armed status.

ON Attorney General Holli Wells said ONPD will continue patrol rounds, which include the seven Osage Casinos in addition to having armed security again. Whitehorn said the bill “allows for different levels of security,” which will be a policy decision by casino and gaming officials on the number of officers who will be trained and armed.

Discussion on armed security picked up following the Oct. 1, 2017 Las Vegas shooting where a gunman opened fire from his Mandalay Bay hotel tower suite targeting a nearby country music festival that left 58 attendees dead and hundreds injured before the gunman fatally shot himself.

At the October gaming board meeting, Osage Casino CEO Byron Bighorse said management would be working through details on security for updates, especially after the shootings and with the Tulsa casino and hotel construction in progress.

Interim gaming board member Julie Malone told the Congressional committee the legislation is not intended to replace ONPD patrols, but there would be a need to react and control security situations, if one occurred. Casino Security Director Jim Redcorn told the committee having armed security is part of “being proactive” for patrol duties.

The Congress also passed bill ONCA 18-03 (also sponsored by Whitehorn), which is a companion bill to amend the Nation’s gaming law, which allows the gaming board (subject to any requirements for Gaming Commission review and approval) to establish standards and policies and procedures for training armed and unarmed casino security personnel to protect people and property at the gaming facilities, offices and land controlled by the casinos.

The Congress will next convene for its regular 24-day Hun-Kah Session starting in late March or sooner if a legislative or executive proclamation is issued calling for a special session.