Oklahoma Tribes Oppose Governor Stitt Effort to Renegotiate Gaming Compacts

Posted on: July 26, 2019, 07:21h. 

Last updated on: July 26, 2019, 07:21h.

Oklahoma tribes are uniting to oppose an effort by Governor Kevin Stitt (R) to renegotiate gaming compacts and increase  revenue-sharing responsibilities stemming from their Native American casinos.

Oklahoma tribes casino tax Kevin Stitt
Gov. Kevin Stitt is facing backlash from Oklahoma tribes after he announced his intentions to increase gaming taxes. (Image: KFOR)

Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association (OIGA) Chairman Matt Morgan said this week that the majority of the state’s 38 Native American tribes have agreed to come together to thwart the governor’s plan to amend their gaming agreements.

“If we stand together, we have a good chance at being in the position we want to be in,” Morgan said at a tribal gaming meeting, as reported by Tulsa World.

We believe Governor Stitt has been misinformed about how these compacts work,” Morgan continued. “Either it’s the same deal, or he wants to offer a better deal to the tribes.”

Oklahoma’s tribal organizations operate 130 casinos throughout the state. They range from gaming stations inside convenience centers to full-scale integrated resorts like WinStar World – the world’s largest gaming venue in terms of floor space.

OK Fees

Stitt says the 15-year-old compacts, which are set to expire on January 1, 2020, need updated. The Republican is of the opinion that the exclusivity fees the tribes pay the state for the right to operate slot machines and table games is far too low.

Tribes pay between four and six percent of their slot win to the state, and 10 percent of table game revenue.

“The easiest thing to do is simply renew the existing compacts ‘as is,’ rather than do the hard work of closely reviewing and negotiating new compacts that reflect the state of affairs today,” Stitt explained earlier this month. “In this case, that means sitting down with our tribal partners to discuss how to bring these 15-year-old compacts to an agreement that reflects market conditions for the gaming industry seen around the nation today.”

Murphy says the governor simply doesn’t possess the power to require the tribes to renegotiate. Instead, the Native American groups are under the impression that the compacts will simply renew in their current legal form for another 15-year term.

Negotiating Pieces

Murphy says the current tax rates imposed on tribal gaming in Oklahoma is similar to other states where Native Americans are operating casinos. However, he says his constituents might be willing to alter the compacts if the state expands their gaming options.

Specifically, the tribes want the right to operate sportsbooks. Their current compacts allow for expansion such as the recently liberalized sports gambling activity. The US Supreme Court struck down the federal sports betting ban in May 2018. Nine states have since joined Nevada in getting sports betting operational.

Of those states is New Mexico, which has already allowed its Santa Ana Star Casino – owned by the Pueblo Indians – to include a sportsbook. Under that tribe’s gaming compact with New Mexico, the tribal casino is free to operate “any and all forms of Class III Gaming.” William Hill opened the doors to its sportsbook at the Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort & Casino this week.