UKB Assistant Chief Jamie Thompson signs the new Tribal-state gaming compact on Wednesday, July 1st. (BRITTNEY BENNETT/GCN)
Two Tribes, the United Keetowah Band (UKB) of Cherokee Indians and the Kialegee Tribal Town (KTT), signed new 15-year compacts with the state of Oklahoma this week. The new agreements, if approved by Interior and entered into the Federal Register, grant each Tribe the right to build and operate a gaming facility outside their jurisdictional areas, near Oklahoma City, and within a mile of a major highway.
Neither Tribe currently operates a casino. (The UKB’s Keetoowah Cherokee Casino in Tahlequah closed in 2013.)
Oklahoma entering into new compact agreements with the UKB and KTT comes on the heels of Gov. Stitt signing two Tribal gaming compacts in April with the Comanche Nation and Otoe-Missouria Tribe. The U.S. Department of Interior approved the compacts between the Comanche Nation and Otoe-Missouria Tribe and the state of Oklahoma, by default, in early June.
The Comanche and Otoe-Missouria compacts pave the way for sports betting, which is not included in either of the UKB or KTT’s new agreements. If Interior does not take formal action within 45 days to approve or deny the new compacts with the UKB and KTT, they will be deemed approved and will go into effect once they are published in the Federal Register.
Whereas exclusivity fees for the Otoe-Missouria Tribe and Comanche Nation’s prospective new casinos is 13%, the UKB’s exclusivity fee is based on a sliding scale ranging from 12% to 15% of revenue from Class III machines. The exclusivity fee is set at 12% for the first two years that the Kialegees’ casino is operating; thereafter, a sliding scale would go into effect for the remainder of the compact’s duration. On top of that, both the UKB and KTT would pay an 18% exclusivity fee on revenue from nonhouse-banked table and card games, such as blackjack, poker or roulette.
United Keetowah Band of Cherokee Indians
United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians officials inked their compact with Gov. Stitt on Wednesday, July 1, granting the Tribe rights to operate Class II and Class III gaming in Logan County through December 31, 2035.
“It is both an honor and privilege to be announcing the signing of this economic venture between the great state of Oklahoma and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians,” said UKB Chief Joe Bunch. “We thank Governor Kevin Stitt and his administration for this monumental day and for their leadership efforts in this compact.”
As Brittney Bennett, Editor of Giduwa Cherokee News, the official news source for the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, reported: Bunch could not be in attendance for the signing due to unforeseen circumstances. Assistant Chief Jamie Thompson was allowed to sign the compact in Bunch’s place per UKB constitution rules.
“This is a monumental day for Keetoowahs. I wanted to thank Governor Stitt and his council that’s worked to put this compact together with our Attorney General Klint Cowan and our council,” said Thompson. “We’re trying to create a win-win situation for all Oklahomans and certainly for our Tribal members. We’re looking forward to a long relationship with the state that benefits not only our Tribe, but our citizens of the great state of Oklahoma.”
Per its new compact, the Otoe-Missouria Tribe also has the opportunity to open a casino in Logan County, pending federal approval of its land-into-trust application.
Kialegee Tribal Town
Kialegee Mekko Brian Givens signed the Tribe’s new compact on Thursday, July 2nd, permitting the KTT to open a casino in Oklahoma County east of Choctaw Road. For its first gaming location, the Kiaglees plan to partner with another Tribe. The KTT must ink an agreement with a Tribal Nation by June 30, 2021, to jointly manage the casino.
“The Kialegee Tribal Town is pursuing a sound business plan for its first gaming location in Oklahoma with their compact commitment to partner with another tribe on this venture,” Gov. Stitt said.
Gov. Stitt’s administration released an announcement about the KTT’s new compact with Oklahoma without an accompanying statement from Tribal leaders.
Litigation ensues over whether the Stitt administration has the authority to unilaterally sign Tribal-state gaming compacts. The Oklahoma Legislature sued Stitt on June 4 , seeking an Oklahoma Supreme Court determination, and the court heard arguments Wednesday.
Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association Chairman Matthew Morgan released a statement concerning the ongoing lawsuit: “Like many others, we listened carefully to the July 1 oral arguments before the Oklahoma Supreme Court, and we agree with Oklahoma’s legislative leadership and Attorney General Mike Hunter that Gov. Kevin Stitt unilaterally entering into new gaming agreements with Tribal Nations violates state law. For the past year, Gov. Stitt’s actions have caused unnecessary strife, costly litigation and have wasted the state’s resources.”