Oklahoma Strikes New Compacts With Otoe-Missouria Tribe, Comanche Nation

Otoe-Missouria Tribe Chairman John Shotton speaks at yesterday’s press conference, announcing the Tribe has entered into a new gaming agreement with the State of Oklahoma.

The State of Oklahoma on Tuesday entered into new gaming agreements with the Otoe-Missouria Tribe and Comanche Nation. 

The new compacts, set to expire December 31, 2035, would authorize sports betting (otherwise not legal in Oklahoma) and banked table games such as blackjack. The compacts contain updated fee structures and new casino locations, three for each Tribe. The compacts require Interior approval. 

While the compacts allow for potential new casinos, they limit the Tribes to offering event wagering at two casinos. The compacts would permit retail sportsbooks as well as online wagering while bettors remain geolocated on Tribal lands, for a 1.1% tax on handle rather than revenue. Handle is the total amount wagered, as opposed to revenue generated from those wagers. 

Betting on sporting events and e-sports are permitted under the proposed compacts, except for wagers on in-state colleges, as well as on any collegiate events that take place within Oklahoma. The compacts also allow for the state to license up to five non-Tribal sports betting locations at a “future date.” 

The Otoe-Missouria Tribe and Comanche Nation were involved in a federal lawsuit against Gov. Kevin Stitt, originally filed by the Cherokee, Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations on December 31, 2019, which seeks a declaratory judgment that their Tribal-state compacts automatically renewed for additional 15-year terms on January 1, 2020. Ten Tribes remain part of the lawsuit; mediation must be completed by May 31st.

Otoe-Missouria Tribe Chairman John Shotton says his Tribe’s new gaming agreement with the state does not reflect its stance on the lawsuit. “While we do believe the current compact auto-renewed at the end of 2019 for another 15 years, it was our choice to sit down with the governor and his team to discuss what his ideas were for a new or amended compact,” said Chairman Shotton during Tuesday’s press conference announcing the new gaming deals.  

Chairman Shotton added: “We know that when things return to normal, and we’re able to open our casinos again, we’re going to have a very stable foundation.” 

Comanche Nation Chairman William Nelson Sr. at yesterday’s press conference, announcing the Nation has entered into a new gaming agreement with the State of Oklahoma

The Otoe-Missouria Tribe and Comanche Nation’s compacts contain exclusivity fees of 4.5% to 6% of net revenues at existing casinos, increasing up to 13% if the federal government approves new casinos. 

The Otoe-Missouria Tribe may pursue a casino in Logan, Noble and Payne counties. Meanwhile, the Comanche Nation, which operates five casinos in the state, has its eyes on gaming enterprises in Love County, Cleveland County and Grady County. If the venues generate more than $300 million in a single year, exclusivity fees stand to be renegotiated. 

“Moving forward, the state will continue to negotiate with individual Tribes, leaving behind the one-size-fits-all approach to the model gaming compact,” Stitt said. 

Stitt indicated that he anticipates signing more compacts on a one-off basis before the verdict comes at the end of May: “I am committed to continuing productive conversations with all Oklahoma Tribes. …I am hopeful that we can and should accomplish more compacts over the next few weeks.” 

Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association Chairman Matt Morgan released a statement acknowledging the right of each Tribe to assert its sovereignty and make its own decisions, yet he underscored the organization’s view that “Governor Stitt does not have the authority to do what he claims to have done…” Morgan states. “Without the engagement of the Oklahoma Legislature, he has entered agreements based on a claim of unilateral State authority to legalize sportsbook, to revamp the Oklahoma Lottery, and to authorize new gaming facilities in Norman and Stillwater, among other places. That’s simply not the law.” 

Attorney General Mike Hunter similarly asserts the new agreements “are not authorized by the state Tribal Gaming Act. The governor has the authority to negotiate compacts with the Tribes on behalf of the state. However, only gaming activities authorized by the act may be the subject of a Tribal gaming compact. Sports betting is not a prescribed ‘covered game’ under the act.”

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt at Tuesday’s press conference announcing the new Tribal-state gaming compacts