Oklahoma Tribes Stand Firm Against Gov. Stitt’s Proposal for an 8-Month Compact Extension

“I am disappointed that the Tribes turned our offer down and refused our requests to negotiate new compact terms that better address the parties’ changing needs,” Gov. Kevin Stitt said in a statement Thursday.

Oklahoma’s gaming Tribes are holding their ground: “We stand united today against the proposed extension by Gov. Stitt as utterly unnecessary, given the automatic renewal,” said Matthew Morgan, Chairman of the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association (OIGA), an organization of 32 Indian Nations. 

Morgan is referring to the automatic 15-year renewal of Tribal gaming compacts with the State of Oklahoma that takes effect if good-faith negotiations are not reached between the Tribes and the state before 2020. Gov. Kevin Stitt argues that the compacts expire on January 1, though he has offered Tribes an eight-month “extension” in advance of negotiations for the state to receive a larger percentage of casino revenue. 

“I am disappointed that the Tribes turned our offer down and refused our requests to negotiate new compact terms that better address the parties’ changing needs,” Stitt said in a statement Thursday. “I will continue to work to protect the state’s interests, and I hope that those running the casino industry will negotiate with the state in good faith as these compacts demand.” 

The impasse signals the disagreement may land in federal court.

Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby previously indicated that a formal dispute may be imminent” in a letter to the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI).

“We reserve our right to take legal action, if necessary, to protect the Chickasaw Nation’s legal and sovereign rights as well as the material interests of our citizens who rely on government programs and services supported by our gaming operation revenues,” Anoatubby previously wrote.

On the heels of Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter withdrawing from Tribal gaming compact discussions, Gov. Kevin Stitt  declared Tuesday that he’s taking the lead and plans to hire his own out-of-state legal team.

Current compacts require Tribes to pay between 4-10% of Tribal gambling revenue in “exclusivity fees” to the state. Last year those fees reached nearly $139 million in payments to the state. Tribes in Oklahoma have paid more than $1.5 billion in exclusivity fees to the state since 2006.

The 32 Tribal members of OIGA recently met at the River Spirit Casino and Resort in Tulsa to evaluate their stance and response to the governor’s request to extend their gaming compacts and renegotiations to August 31, 2020. 

Tulsa World reported that Sac and Fox Nation Chief Justin Wood, a former Republican lawmaker from Shawnee, called Stitt’s approach a “veiled threat” to the state’s Tribal Nations. 

“We stand united today against those who break promises,” the OIGA chairman said.

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