Oklahoma will have to bear cost of poorly negotiated gaming compact deal with Native American tribes: Governor Stitt

Oklahoma will have to bear cost of poorly negotiated gaming compact deal with Native American tribes: Governor Stitt

Oklahoma has entered a poorly negotiated deal with 35 Native American tribes over Class III gaming compacts and now the Sooner State must bear the cost of that mistake, Governor Kevin Stitt said after a federal judge ruled in favor of the tribes.

The dispute between Governor Stitt and the Native American tribes erupted when the Republican governor insisted on renegotiating compact deals, while the gaming compact operators argued that their contracts automatically renewed on 1st of January for another 15 years through 2035. After being compelled by the governor to renegotiate the gaming compact deals, the Native American tribes took the case to court of law.

Siding with the Native American tribes, Chief Judge Timothy DeGiusti of Oklahoma’s Western District ruled that Gov. Stitt has no authority to force the tribes to renegotiate their contracts for the Class III gaming compacts. Pronouncing his ruling, DeGiusti stressed that the state governor has no case challenging the expirations of the gaming compacts.

Without wasting time, the Republican governor said in a statement, “It confirms my fears, and the fears of many fellow Oklahomans, that the State entered into a poorly negotiated deal and now we must bear the cost of this mistake.”

Matthew Morgan, Chairman for Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association, welcomed the ruling, saying the court quickly confirmed that their agreements with the state government meant what they meant.

It is also worth-mentioning here that Gov. Stitt recently signed new gaming compacts with four
Tribes, including the Otoe-Missouria Tribe and Comanche Nation, but those agreements were also ruled invalid. Last week, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that Gov. Stitt overstepped his legal authority in negotiating new compacts.

The governor also pointed out that US District Judge DeGiusti determined that the Gaming Compact contract that was originally signed by an agency’s ‘unelected board’ automatically renewed the gaming licenses for another 15 years.

Under the terms and conditions of gaming compact contract signed in 2004, the Native American tribes in Oklahoma can own and operated Class III gaming properties by sharing 4 per cent to 10 per cent of their annual gross gaming revenue (GGR) with the Sooner State. For the financial year of 2018, the tribes contributed $138.6 million to the state’s coffers. The Chickasaw Nation accounted for nearly $48 million. However, Gov. Stitt wanted to renegotiate the contract as he wanted the gaming compact operators to share more of their GGRs.