Oklahoma Gov. Demands Tribes Stop Offering Table, Electronic Games

Posted on: January 22, 2020, 07:31h. 

Last updated on: January 23, 2020, 10:09h.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt wants the state’s tribal casinos to cease table and electronic games, as a contentious tribal lawsuit against the state moves forward over disputed gaming compacts.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt wants the state’s tribal casinos to cease offering table and electronic games. (Image: KJRH)

In a federal judicial filing, lawyers representing the governor on Wednesday requested that a judge make it illegal for tribes to operate Class III electronic games, the Associated Press reported.

While the case is being heard, the state wants an account established so Oklahoma can get a percentage of the incoming revenue.

Stitt, a Republican, argues the 15-year gaming compacts with the tribes expired on Jan. 1. Current tribal gambling is illegal, he says, and the governor wants the state to get a higher percentage of revenue in future compacts.

The tribes now pay four to six percent on slot gross gaming revenue and 10 percent on table games. Stitt wants 20 to 25 percent, which would be among the highest in the country.

The Chickasaw, Cherokee, and Choctaw nations were the tribes that filed the lawsuit. It challenges the governor’s position that compacts, which exclusively allow gambling at tribal casinos, have expired.

Muscogee (Creek) Nation Appears to Join Lawsuit

The Muscogee (Creek) Nation is apparently now joining the lawsuit, too. The tribe approved spending $500,000 related to the lawsuit, the AP reported.

The tribes argue the compacts auto-renewed on expiration. They contend the previous administration wanted the auto renewal, too.

The fees paid the state were almost $139 million during the 2018 fiscal year. Most of the money is used for schools.

Last year, Stitt offered the tribes an extension, which would allow them to continue offering Class III games for eight more months until the dispute is settled. Two of the state’s 38 federally recognized tribes — the Kialegee Tribal Town and United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians — signed Stitt’s agreement.

Oklahoma Tribes, Governor Embroiled in Arguments

“While we prefer negotiation to litigation, the federal court is now the only reasonable alternative to bring legal certainty to this issue,” Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby said when the suit was filed. “We remain hopeful we will continue to have a productive and mutually beneficial relationship with the State of Oklahoma once we have resolved this issue.”

Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton added that the governor’s “stance on the gaming compact has created uncertainty and has been seen as a threat to our employees and our business partners. We see this legal action as the most viable option to restore the clarity and stability the tribes and Oklahoma both deserve by obtaining a resolution that our compact does automatically renew.”

Stitt, a member of the Cherokee Nation himself, said in response to the lawsuit, “I am disappointed that a number of Oklahoma tribes, led by the Chickasaw, Cherokee, and Choctaw Nations, did not accept the State’s offer on Oct. 28 for a three-person arbitration panel to resolve our dispute outside of court. This was … a win-win for all parties,” the governor said.

“I was elected to represent all four million Oklahomans, and I will continue to be laser-focused on an outcome that achieves a fair deal and is in the best interest of the state and its citizens,” Stitt added.

In response to the newest filing from the governor, Stephen Greetham, senior counsel for the Chickasaw Nation, told the AP, “We are reviewing the pleading his lawyers filed on his behalf and look forward to learning what legal basis he will claim to justify the uncertainty he has endeavored to create.”