OKLAHOMA CITY - Governor Kevin Stitt wants to jumpstart gaming negotiations with the state’s Indian tribes in two weeks. But the tribes are leery.  

The governor wrote in a letter back in July saying tribal gaming compacts will expire the beginning of the year, and a new compact has to be written. The tribes disagreed.

This week, the governor sent the tribes a letter taking a lighter tone, but essentially saying the same thing.

“While we appreciate the warmer tone that Governor Stitt is approaching the tribes the content of the letter was not materially different,” said Stephen Greetham, Senior Council for the Chickasaw Nation.

There are really two issues at play here.

The governor wants to change the rates the tribes pay the state for gaming and renegotiate the entire agreements. He insists the compacts expire at the end of the year.

The tribes say they automatically roll over for another 15 years.

In a letter to the tribes this week, the governor appeared to offer an olive branch, writing:  

“I propose we table the issue of the renewal or termination date of the existing compact…”

To focus on an agreement, but: “I genuinely believe in the possibility of an updated gaming compact that will inure to the benefit of both the tribes and the state.”

The tribes insist the rates can be changed without reworking the entire compact.

“The compact provides a mechanism for requesting a renegotiation of the rate. If the governor shifted to that course and wanted to start that conversation, there is a way we could do that in the procedures of our intergovernmental relationship. But the letter doesn’t really signal that’s what he really wants to do,” said Greetham.

The governor also wrote, “I am designating Attorney General Mike Hunter and his office to be an active leader on behalf of the state in these discussions alongside my office.”

Hunter’s office isn’t commenting on his role in the negotiations. 

The tribes say they aren’t willing to budge on changing the compacts but are willing to talk about rates.

“The state isn’t going anywhere. And the tribes aren’t going anywhere. It’s unfortunate how the conversation started out, but we’re always willing to work with our state partners and we will,” said Greetham.

Tribal leaders plan to discuss whether to meet with the governor on September 3.