Oklahoma Attorney General, Tribes to Meet to Discuss Gaming Compacts

In July, Tribal officials including then-Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker, Seminole Nation Principal Chief Greg. P. Chilcoat, Muscogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief James Floyd, Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton, and Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby signed a resolution opposing Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt’s move to renegotiate the state-tribal gaming compacts. 

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt has taken the position that the state should renegotiate its gaming compacts with the state’s Tribes. The 15-year agreements expire on January 1, but Tribal officials argue that the compacts renew automatically unless new terms are reached. 

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter is scheduled to meet with Tribal leaders in Shawnee on October 28 to review interpretations of the renewal provision. The state is paying $250,000 to a Michigan law firm to assist with negotiations.

“We’re anxiously awaiting what their proposal is,” Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton told the Tulsa World

Gov. Stitt published an op-ed in the Tulsa World in July, met with strong Tribal opposition, that argued that Oklahoma should receive a more substantial share of the billions of dollars that Tribal casinos generate each year, for exclusivity and given the gaming industry’s maturation. The state’s take of casino revenue currently ranges between 4% to 10% — totalling more than $139 million in fees in 2018 — that primarily goes toward funding education. 

“The Tribes have all made a considerable investment — in fact, we’re talking billions of dollars — and we still have investments to make,” said Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby.

The 38 federally recognized Tribes in Oklahoma make a $12.9 billion and growing annual economic impact on the state. That figure for year 2017 from an Oklahoma Native Impact study, includes $4.6 billion in wages and benefits to Oklahoma and 96,000 jobs supported by Tribal governments and enterprises. 

“Unlike corporations that move based on the economy and population migration, Tribal nations are permanent and invested in the long-term growth of their jurisdictional area as well as the state as a whole,” said Neal McCaleb, Chickasaw Nation Ambassador At-Large to the United States.

In his op-ed, Stitt noted that Oklahoma’s Tribal exclusivity fees are the lowest in the nation, whereas Tribes in other states pay closer to 20-25 percent, he stated. That’s not the case for Tribally owned casinos, the Associated Press reported: Fees in New Mexico hover between 2-10 percent; in Arizona, between 1-8 percent; and in neighboring Arkansas, fees will range from 13 to 20 percent. 

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr. previously said that the state has never had a better ally than the Cherokee Nation, and that understanding must increase about the positive effect of Tribes on the state. “So we don’t need to change the formula,” Hoskin said. “I think the state just needs to change its philosophy in line with how the Tribes view the role of our governments.”

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