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Oklahoma Supreme Court Rules More Tribal Gaming Compacts Invalid

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Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt (center) signs a new gaming compact with Kialegee Tribal Town and Mekko Brian Givens (far right) in July 2020.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt lacks the authority to enter into gaming compacts with Kialegee Tribal Town and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians.

The gaming compacts were signed by Stitt with the tribal nations last July. Both were deemed approved by the U.S. Department of the Interior when it took no action after the compacts were signed. Both agreements made it onto the federal register.

Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat and House Speaker Charles McCall challenged the validity of the compacts in the case that went before Oklahoma Supreme Court.

Under the compacts, both Tribal Nations would have eventually paid the higher exclusivity fees Stitt wanted in the battle over tribal casino revenue that has helped define his first term in office.

The state supreme court previously ruled that two different gaming compacts between the Otoe-Missouria and the Comanche Nation were invalid for the same reason. The Governor must have approval from the Joint Committee on State and Tribal relations or negotiate within the model compact. He did neither.

Last Summer, a federal Judge also ruled against Stitt in the dispute over the state's model compact.

Speaking on behalf of the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Authority, Chairman Matt Morgan said he appreciated the clarity the Oklahoma Supreme Court provided in the case.

"The Executive branch’s action in entering into the new compacts with the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians and the Kialegee Tribal Town – containing different terms than the Model Gaming Compact and without approval from the Joint Committee – disrupts the proper balance between the Executive and Legislative branches," said Morgan in a press statement.

Morgan maintains that the renewed Model Gaming Compact is the only valid gaming compact between the state and any Tribe.

Oklahoma's State-Tribal Gaming Act was created in 2004 after voter approval of State Question 712. It allows federally-recognized tribes to operate Class III gaming operations including slot machines, roulette and craps.

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