Two Oklahoma Tribes Reach New State Gaming Compacts, Sports Betting Included, Disputed

Posted on: April 21, 2020, 01:49h. 

Last updated on: April 21, 2020, 02:08h.

Two Oklahoma tribes have reached new compacts with the state to continue lawfully operating Class III gaming (slot machines and table games) at their tribal casinos.

Oklahoma tribes gaming compacts
Sports betting could soon be offered at casinos owned by two Oklahoma tribes. One such location being the Comanche Nation’s Red River Casino. (Image: Nexstar Media Group)

Governor Kevin Stitt (R) announced today that new 15-year gaming compacts had been reached with the Otoe-Missouria Tribe and Comanche Nation. The Otoe-Missouria Tribe, headquartered in Red Rock, owns five casinos. Comanche Nation, based in Lawton, has four casinos.

Under the new terms, the tribe’s current casinos will share between 4.5 percent to six percent of their gross gaming revenue (GGR) from slot machines and table games with the state. New casinos built by either tribe would see their tax on Class III gaming increase to as much as 13 percent, dependent on net casino win.

The compacts take a sound approach to assessing the value of substantial exclusivity in a modernized tribal gaming industry, and importantly, the compacts expand opportunity for both the compacting tribes and the State to compete in future gaming markets,” Stitt declared.

The compacts additionally authorize sports betting, with the state collecting 1.1 percent of the amount wagered – aka handle.

Disputes Ongoing

Oklahoma is home to 38 federally recognized tribes. All but three operate Class III gaming inside the Sooner State.

Stitt argues the 15-year gaming compacts reached back in 2004 expired January 1, 2020. The tribes say the language in the contracts states that they automatically renew for another 15-year period.

Oklahoma tribes have been sharing between four and six percent of their GGR from slots and tables with the state. Stitt, a member of the Cherokee Nation, has called for the state to receive more of the casino winnings.

The first-term governor alleges that tribes are unlawfully operating gaming because of his assertion that the compacts have terminated. The Cherokee, Chickasaw, and Choctaw nations filed a lawsuit January 1 against Stitt, requesting a federal court to reject the governor’s claims.

The litigation, which has since been joined by numerous other tribes in Oklahoma, has been ordered into mediation. But its resolution is being delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Sports Betting Authority

The Otoe-Missouria Tribe and Comanche Nation’s new compacts provide them with the privilege to operate sports betting. However, the Native American casinos will not be permitted to take action on collegiate games involving Oklahoma schools, nor college sports occurring within the state.

The compacts add, “For the avoidance of doubt, even if it should be found that the State’s conduct of Event Wagering is in violation of the State’s obligations, if any, under compacts with other Oklahoma tribes, such a finding shall have no effect on the Tribe’s right to engage in Event Wagering.”

The Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association (OIGA) was quick to respond.

“Governor Stitt does not have the authority to do what he claims to have done today. Without the engagement of the Oklahoma legislature, he has entered agreements based on a claim of unilateral State authority to legalize sportsbooks, to revamp the Oklahoma Lottery, and to authorize new gaming facilities in Norman and Stillwater, among other places. That’s simply not the law,” said OIGA Chair Matthew Morgan.