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Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission bucks governor's request

Kevin Stitt (center) makes his way past an applauding Attorney General Gentner Drummond (right) at the 2023 State of the State Address.
Legislative Service Bureau
Kevin Stitt (center) makes his way past an applauding Attorney General Gentner Drummond (right) at the 2023 State of the State Address.

Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond told a state agency that regulates wagering not to adopt a “wrongheaded” resolution sought by the governor last week.

Gov. Kevin Stitt asked the nine-member Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission, whose members he appoints, to pass a resolution saying it would not allow tracks to offer gaming machines or share in the participating tribal fund revenue starting Jan. 1, 2035, unless authorized by the governor.

The Commission sought Drummond’s advice.

“The recommendation of this office is that it is unenforceable, illegal and would be wrongheaded for this commission to endorse that,” Drummond said.

He said the board may not delegate its statutory responsibility.

A resolution approved in 2024 would not be enforceable on a future commission, Drummond said.

He said it was his formal recommendation that the commission vote no on the resolution, which it did.

Stitt’s request came after tribes successfully sued him to get a ruling that said the tribal gaming compacts automatically renewed.

Tribes pay the state exclusivity fees for the right to operate Class III gaming and non-house-banked card games.

Stitt was seeking to renegotiate the compacts and bring in more dollars to the state.

A federal judge in July 2020 ruled that because the Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission on Oct. 17, 2019, approved the final horse track gaming licenses, the compacts automatically renewed.

“No contract should exist in perpetuity,” Stitt said after the vote. “That’s all I was addressing in the resolution. We cannot leave the state in a position of not being able to renegotiate those contracts.

“I wrongly assumed the AG would have wanted the best for the state.”

Oklahoma Voice is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Oklahoma Voice maintains editorial independence.

Barbara Hoberock is a senior reporter with Oklahoma Voice. She began her career in journalism in 1989 after graduating from Oklahoma State University. She began with the Claremore Daily Progress and then started working in 1990 for the Tulsa World. She has covered the statehouse since 1994 and served as Tulsa World Capitol Bureau chief. She covers statewide elected officials, the legislature, agencies, state issues, appellate courts and elections.
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