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Oklahoma Gov. Stitt Signs Two New Tribal Gaming Compacts

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt announced Thursday that he signed two new gaming compacts with the United Keetoowah Band Of Cherokee Indians and the Kialegee Tribal Town. The compacts were signed Wednesday and sent to the U.S. Department of Interior for approval.

Under these new compacts, both tribes will pay 18% on table games. The United Keetoowah Band Of Cherokee Indians will pay a sliding scale fee on electronic games while the Kialegee Tribal Town will pay 12% for the first two years then resort to a sliding scale fee. This is a higher fee than the current compacts, which are at 4.5%.

Both tribes must acquire the land to build these casinos and have the land put into trust. Currently, neither tribe operates any gaming facility or casino.

Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association Chairman Matt Morgan released a statement condemning the compacts.

"Like many others, we listened carefully to the July 1st oral arguments before the Oklahoma Supreme Court, and we agree with Oklahoma’s legislative leadership and Attorney General Mike Hunter that Gov. Kevin Stitt unilaterally entering into new gaming agreements with Tribal Nations violates state law," said Morgan. "For the past year, Gov. Stitt’s actions have caused unnecessary strife, costly litigation and have wasted the state’s resources."

The announcement comes after the Oklahoma Supreme Court heard oral arguments from Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter, and the Oklahoma Legislative leaders.

Stitt praised the compacts in a press release.

“One year after beginning gaming compact negotiations, the State has entered into its fourth compact that makes way for Oklahoma tribes to innovate and compete in a new, dynamic gaming market and strengthens State-Tribal relationships,” said Stitt.

The UKB and the Kialegee Tribal Town signed the exemption Stitt put forth last December after he said gaming compacts for the tribes would not renew in 2020. The Governor has since signed compacts with the Otoe-Missouria Tribe and the Comanche Nation.

"This compact also presents an opportunity for the UKB to move forward and begin increasing health, education and job opportunities for our tribal members and elders, as well as our surrounding communities," said UKB Chief Joe Bunch.

William Norman is a partner at Hobbs Strauss in Oklahoma City and is a citizen of the Muscogee Creek Nation. He negotiated the first gaming compacts for the tribes in 2004. He thinks these latest compacts are a bad deal.

"These agreements appear to be more of a gimmick to limit tribal gaming rights and create turmoil among the different tribes," said Norman in an email to KOSU. "Astonishingly, these compacts are much worse for the two tribes, with huge exclusivity fees to be paid and no corresponding promise of exclusivity. The gaming compacts approved by referendum vote in 2004 remain superior for both the state and tribal governments, and we look forward to a ruling soon confirming their renewal."

The new compacts are pending approval from the U.S. Department of the Interior. They have 45 days to review and either approve or not. When gaming compacts for the Otoe-Missouria Tribe and Comanche Nation were submitted, the Department took no action, leading to the automatic approval for the compacts.

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