Governor Kevin Stitt is expected to pay up to $300,000 to hire a law firm to fight Oklahoma tribes over gaming agreements, called compacts.
The governor said the 15-year compacts have to be renegotiated after expiring on January 1. The tribes insist the compacts automatically renew.
The tribes are suing the governor, trying to get a federal judge to decide once and for all whether the compacts automatically renew. The legislature passed Senate Bill 1252 in 2004, News 9 pulled the records from then.
Every year the state house of representatives publishes “session highlights” to record accomplishments.
Under the gaming compact, the records show “the compact will expire January 1, 2020, but will automatically renew for 15 years.”
The senate summary from the same year reads, Senate Bill 1252: “provides that the compact shall expire January 1, 2020 but will be automatically renewed for fifteen years.”
In May of 2003, while the compact was still being negotiated, Senator Dick Wilkerson told his colleagues, “and it will be automatically renewed if racetracks can still offer these games, but the fees and penalties can be renegotiated.”
“Ask yourself why would these words be in the compact and why would folks be saying that when the compact was originally put in place if that isn’t what they intended to happen today,” said Chickasaw Nation Senior Counsel Stephen Greetham.
The governor did not answer our questions on camera, but a spokesperson sent a generic comment saying:
"Why would you have a termination date and then in the same breath say 'never-mind,' without any mention of events that would trigger a renewal? The only reasonable legal conclusion is no triggering events have occurred and therefore the compacts expire on Jan. 1, 2020."
“If it wasn’t intended to renew there wouldn’t be a clause that specifically says ‘shall automatically renew’” Greetham said. “Our position’s pretty simple. We’re just expecting the state to live up to its own offer that it put on the table.”
The tribes filed their federal lawsuit on New Year’s Eve. The state has until the end of the month to file a response to the lawsuit.