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Feds Approve Gaming Compacts For Comanche Nation, Otoe-Missouria Tribe

left to right: Otoe-Missouria Tribe Chairman John Shotton, Governor Kevin Stitt, and Comanche Nation Chairman William Nelson during the compacts signing in April 2020.

The U.S. Department of the Interior has approved gaming compacts Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt entered into with two tribes in April.

The 45-day deadline for the Department of the Interior to approve the gaming compacts between Stitt and the Comanche Nation and the Otoe-Missouria Tribe ended on June 7. The department took no action, which means the agreements can take effect once they're published in the Federal Register.

The approval means both tribes can begin operating under the terms agreed upon in April. However, the compacts must comply with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The Department of the Interior states the compacts can take effect to the extent they're legal.

Rob Rosette, attorney for the Comanche Nation and the Otoe-Missouria, said in a statement,"This decision will have national ramifications as it reinforces tribal sovereignty and moves Oklahoma away from a one-size-fits all gaming compact."

In a written statement, Matt Morgan, Chairman of the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association, disagreed.

"While we respect the sovereignty of each Tribe to take what actions it believes it must on behalf of its citizens, these agreements do not advance the tribal governmental gaming industry in Oklahoma," Morgan said.

The situation is far from over. Stephen Greetham, the senior counsel with the Chickasaw Nation, says this decision will likely be challenged in court and that the Department of the Interior hasn't done its job.

"We're left with these defective agreements," Greetham said. "Interior pulled a Pontius Pilot and washed its hands of the matter and there is just going to be more conflict."

In a statement, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said litigation will continue.

"No federal official can give Governor Stitt the authority he needed to legally bind the state to these compacts, and Interior officials were not willing to say that the compacts were consistent with the provisions of federal law," Hoskin Jr. said. "Instead, the Department of the Interior dodged the question and left the Governor, Comanche Nation, and Otoe-Missouria Tribe looking at months or years of continued litigation. It's hard to see how any of this equals a "win" for Governor Stitt or for the citizens of Oklahoma."

A lawsuit between several Oklahoma tribes and the governor is still in court.

Allison Herrera covered Indigenous Affairs for KOSU from April 2020 to November 2023.
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