Tribal Leaders Respond to Assertions by Okla. Legislators That New Gaming Compacts Are ‘Legally Flawed’

Otoe-Missouria Tribal Chairman John Shotton (left) and Comanche Nation Chairman William Nelson Sr. (right) at Tuesday’s press conference, announcing their new Tribal-state compacts.

Oklahoma House and Senate leaders sent a joint letter to Gov. Kevin Stitt this week stating that he overstepped his authority when he signed gaming compacts with the Otoe-Missouria Tribe and the Comanche Nation on Tuesday.

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

House Speaker Charles McCall and Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat commented in their letter sent Wednesday: “Sadly, the documents signed yesterday are legally flawed and sow more division than unity.” 

The compacts entered into with the two Tribes require approval from the U.S. Department of the Interior. McCall and Treat told the governor that submission would be “untimely, inappropriate and a waste of resources.”

Oklahoma’s Attorney General Mike Hunter shared a similar opinion that the compacts “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.”

In a joint statement issued in response Wednesday, Otoe-Missouria Tribe Chairman John Shotton and Comanche Nation Chairman William Nelson Sr. said: “We respect the Governor and the Attorney General, who both have a track record of supporting tribal sovereignty. We believe the compact language is consistent with both positions as it says event wagering will be permitted only ‘to the extent such wagers are authorized by law.’ We remain focused on the momentum established with new gaming compacts that anticipate the future of the gaming market, expand opportunity for all parties for generations to come and leave behind the one-size-fits-all approach to the old Model Gaming compact.”

The governor’s inclusion of sports betting is one of several flaws that McCall and Treat identified in their review of the compacts.

The “modernized gaming compacts,” as Gov. Stitt frequently refers to them, would expire December 31, 2035. They would authorize sports betting within Tribal boundaries (otherwise not legal in Oklahoma), as well as banked table games such as blackjack. The compacts contain updated fee structures and new off-reservation casino locations for both Tribes in exchange for increased revenue payments to the state when those facilities open. 

Treat commented: “No elected official, including the Office of the Governor, is granted with the sole discretion to change the law. The governor cannot unilaterally change the state lottery, which is enshrined in our Constitution, or single-handedly open up sports betting or other gambling activities.”

Chairman Shotton and Nelson responded specifically to accusations regarding sports betting, indicating that the Tribes would only launch sportsbooks once the state legislature authorized it: “In other words, so long as such wagering is unlawful, the Otoe-Missouria and Comanche Nation would not be permitted to engage in such gaming under the express language of the compacts. Although state law currently does not authorize event wagering, the compacts nonetheless included such language in anticipation that the state legislature will eventually see event wagering as an important source of revenue, and authorize the activity accordingly.”

They continued: “There is absolutely nothing unlawful about entering into a compact that guides the parties’ behavior and expectations in contemplation of potential future events. In fact, the 2005 compacts also contained provisions that would authorize new forms of gaming in the event that such gaming would be ‘approved by state legislation for use by any person or entity.’ The event wagering provisions of the new compacts are fully consistent with the language of the 2005 compacts.”

The Otoe-Missouria Tribe’s compact can be found here.

The Comanche Nation’s compact can be found here




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