Interior Approves Comanche, Otoe-Missouria Tribal Gaming Compacts in Oklahoma

Otoe-Missouria Tribal Chairman John Shotton (left) and Comanche Nation Chairman William Nelson Sr. (right), announcing in April their new Tribal-state compacts, now approved by Interior.

The U.S. Department of Interior has approved two Tribal gaming compacts in Oklahoma signed in April by Gov. Kevin Stitt. 

Once the compacts are published in the Federal Register, the Tribes can begin operating under the new agreements, containing updated fee structures for existing and new casino locations. The compacts, set to expire December 31, 2035, authorize sports betting (otherwise not legal in Oklahoma) and house-banked table games such as blackjack, craps and roulette. 

The compacts pave the way for the Tribal Nations to expand their geographic footprint, adding three new casino locations for each Tribe. Lands in six counties (three per Tribe) can be taken into trust, following approval through a two-part determination at the federal level. 

“Today’s approval of our compact with the state of Oklahoma will allow us to welcome in a new, modern era of tribal gaming to the benefit of both our people and the state of Oklahoma,” said Otoe-Missouria Tribe Chairman John R. Shotton. 

Shotton emphasized that the compact empowers the Tribe to expand its revenue streams. 

“This compact will help us further diversify our economy, bring in new revenue for services for our people and will allow us to double down on our community engagement in both our existing rural communities and future expansion opportunities. This compact is what is best for our Tribal members and we appreciate the Department of the Interior for approving the compact today.”

Comanche Nation Chairman William Nelson, Sr. highlighted how Tribal gaming and its expansion bring economic opportunity and fortification to the surrounding communities. 

“This compact represents the best of the Comanche people — being a good neighbor, reciprocating back to our people and the communities in which we live; honoring the past while looking ahead to a brighter future for all,” Chairman Nelson said. 

“We have known since we reached this agreement with the governor of Oklahoma that our compact is legal and are pleased that the U.S. Department of the Interior has agreed,” he continued. “This compact will have a positive generational impact on our Nation and Oklahoma. It will modernize gaming in Oklahoma and makes clear that tribal sovereignty is paramount in Oklahoma and nationally. This is what the Oklahoma citizens envisioned back in 2004 when they voted unanimously that the gaming industry would be beneficial for the state, tribes, nations and townships.”

While Rob Rosette, Rosette, LLP partner and attorney for the Comanche Nation and Otoe-Missouria Tribe, asserts that “the legality of the compacts was never in question, as they were negotiated in good faith between sovereign governments and grounded in prior compact precedent,” some Tribal Nations in Oklahoma disagree. 

Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association Chairman Matthew L. Morgan responded to Interior’s approval of the two Oklahoma gaming compacts, stating: “The Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association continues to be concerned with the legal and political ramifications if these agreements go into effect. Our concerns align with those of Senate and House leadership and Attorney General Mike Hunter’s legal opinion, stating that Gov. Stitt does not have the authority to enter into and bind the state to compacts with Indian tribes that authorize gaming activity prohibited by Oklahoma law.”

Morgan continued, “While we respect the sovereignty of each Tribe to take what actions it believes it must on behalf of its citizens, these agreements do not advance the tribal governmental gaming industry in Oklahoma. On the contrary, the agreements introduce the type of potential instability that existing compacts were designed to avoid and exacerbate the relationship between Tribal governments and Governor Stitt.”

But according to the Comanche Nation and Otoe-Missouria Tribe’s representative, Rosette, the decision “reinforces Tribal sovereignty and moves Oklahoma away from a one-size-fits-all gaming compact.”

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