Muscogee (Creek) Nation Becomes Fifth Tribe to Join Lawsuit Against Stitt

The Muscogee (Creek) Nation operates 11 gaming facilities throughout northeastern Oklahoma, the largest of which is River Spirit Casino Resort in Tulsa.

Yesterday the Muscogee (Creek) Nation joined four other Oklahoma Tribes in the lawsuit against Gov. Kevin Stitt.

The Creeks filed a motion to intervene in the suit originally filed on December 31, 2019, by the Cherokee, Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations. The lawsuit seeks a declaratory judgment over whether the 2005 state-Tribal gaming compacts automatically renewed on January 1, 2020 as a clause states in the agreement. 

On Friday, the Citizen Potawatomi Nation joined the lawsuit. 

In addition to becoming the fifth Tribe to join the suit, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation National Council also voted to dedicate an additional $500,000 for legal costs associated with joining the lawsuit, reported the Tulsa World

“We will continue to work with the state of Oklahoma, but the Muscogee (Creek) Nation will not be controlled or intimidated by the state,” said Muscogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief David Hill. “The Muscogee (Creek) Nation stands firm in our position on the gaming compact. ”

Muscogee (Creek) Nation Casinos operates 11 casinos throughout northeastern Oklahoma, the largest of which is River Spirit Casino Resort in Tulsa. 

The Muscogee (Creek) Nation, the country’s fourth largest federally recognized Tribe, counts more than 87,000 citizens, including 75 percent who reside in Oklahoma. The Nation contributes more than $1.4 billion a year to the national economy, accounting for more than 10,000 jobs and paying $443 million in wages and benefits. And its economic impact on Oklahoma in 2017 alone reached $866 million, according to the Tribe’s first-ever comprehensive economic impact study released in June 2019. 

For months, Stitt has argued that Oklahoma Tribes should pay more for the exclusive right to operate Class III games in the state, and he contended compacts expired on January 1, 2020. More recently, Stitt has argued that the state should assume more control of the Tribe’s gaming operations, including their accounting and contracts with suppliers.

Stitt started unlawfully intervening in Tribal casino operations by attempting to dissuade suppliers and vendors from continuing to do business with Tribal casinos by alleging that Tribal casinos would be operating illegally in 2020. He has similarly discouraged customers from visiting casinos and incited concern among some employees. 

“Are they going to be operating illegally Class III games?” Stitt asked in December. “That brings a whole host of issues with vendors.”

The federal lawsuit against Stitt, originally filed by the Cherokee, Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations, and now bolstered by the Citizen Potawatomi Nation and Muscogee (Creek) Nation, does not pertain to exclusivity fees. It strictly asserts that if both parties — states and Tribes — did not renegotiate compacts in good faith in advance of 2020, the compacts automatically renewed. 

The Tribes have stated that once the lawsuit is resolved, they’ll be open to discussing exclusivity fee rates with the state legislature. Though they don’t foresee Gov. Stitt being involved in those negotiations. 

“Once we get through the thick of the litigation — we’re confident in our position — when there are future negotiations, chances are they’re going to be led by the legislature, not by Gov. Stitt, mostly because of the damage he’s doing to the Tribal-state relationship right now,” said Chickasaw Nation General Counsel Stephen Greetham, reported Public Radio Tulsa.