Two More Oklahoma Gaming Compacts Deemed Approved by US Interior Dept.

Posted on: August 24, 2020, 06:28h. 

Last updated on: August 24, 2020, 02:13h.

Two additional gaming compacts reached by Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt (R) and Native American tribes have been deemed approved by federal officials.

Oklahoma gaming compacts Stitt
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, seen here at a Trump rally in June before he later tested positive for COVID-19, has received federal approval for two new tribal gaming compacts. (Image: Sue Ogrocki/AP)

Stitt reached gaming compacts with the Kialegee Tribal Town and United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in early July. It was the third and fourth new casino revenue-sharing contracts the governor reached with tribes in 2020.

Last week, the US Department of the Interior (DOI) allowed the federal agency’s 45-day review period to come and go without rejecting the compacts. That means the gaming contracts are “deemed approved.”

The two tribes do not currently operate casinos. But they are now able to open and run gaming establishments and will be required to share between six percent and 13 percent of their Class III (slot machines and table games) gross gaming revenue with the state. The final rate is dependent on each tribe’s total casino win.

Tribes, Governor at Odds

Oklahoma has 35 federally recognized tribes that operate casinos. That number will increase to 37 should the Kialegee Tribal Town and United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians move forward with their casino aspirations.

Stitt contends that after a 15-year run, the universal Class III tribal gaming compacts for the 35 tribes expired on January 1, 2020. The tribes claim they automatically renewed for another 15 years.

The governor is seeking to reach new terms on a tribe-by-tribe basis. That, some tribal leaders argue, is causing division among the Native American communities.

It is confusing to us that the United States Department of the Interior has allowed the clock to run out and not taken action on these unlawful gaming agreements between Gov. Kevin Stitt and two tribes,” said Oklahoma Indian Gaming Commission Chair Matthew Morgan.

Stitt says his approach is better for the state.

The opportunity will generate new revenue for public schools in the future and expand economic opportunity for our tribal partners, Stitt said. “With these new gaming compacts, Oklahoma is ushering in a new era of prosperity, opportunity, and partnership for the State and the Tribes.”

Federal Intervention

The Oklahoma Supreme Court has already ruled that Stitt overstepped his legal authority in granting the Comanche Nation and Otoe-Missouria Tribe privileges to operate sports betting in their new gaming compacts. The DOI also allowed their compacts to be “deemed approved.”

Earlier this month, the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Citizen Potawatomie nations filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia asking for the federal court to weigh in on the controversy.

“While the Oklahoma Supreme Court has declared those agreements invalid under Oklahoma law, their validity under federal law must also be addressed to avoid damage to the integrity of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act,” attorneys for the tribes said. “The tribes filed this suit to protect IGRA’s established framework and the tribal operations conducted under it.”