Governor Kevin Stitt said class three gaming, like slot machines, blackjack, craps and roulette, will become illegal January 1 if tribes don’t agree to a compact extension.
“I am announcing today that the state of Oklahoma will be requesting tribal leaders to join me in signing an extension to the gaming compact,” Stitt said during a press conference Tuesday.
He said the stalemated negotiations have run too close to 15-year gaming agreement’s January 1, 2020 end date. Instead, he said tribes should agree to an extension while negations continue.
Stitt said he does not yet know how long the extension would be and a tribal representative said they have not yet seen the proposal.
The extension offer comes as Attorney General Mike Hunter backs out of negotiations.
“Under Article VI, Section 8 of the Oklahoma Constitution and 74.0.S. S1221, the governor is given authority to enter into agreements with the federally recognized tribes,” AG Communications Director Alex Gerszewski said in a statement. “Accordingly, the attorney general and the governor have agreed to return the lead agency over tribal gaming compact negotiations to the Governor’s Office. This will allow the governor and his legal counsel to negotiate directly with tribes to hopefully develop a path forward.”
When asked if he and Hunter have differing opinions on the compact’s renewal, Stitt said, “The attorney general and I have a great relationship, just on December 13 it was important that we move on and start preparing for January 1. I’ve been talking to certain tribes, he’s been talking to other sets of tribes, and I just felt like it was best to have one unified voice.”
“We find it disappointing that Oklahoma Attorney General Hunter has removed himself from continuing the negotiation process regarding Tribal Gaming Compacts As we have stated from the beginning, the Tribes are willing partners, and have appreciated Attorney General Hunter’s work with Tribes on a variety of issues in the past." Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association chairman Matthew Morgan said.
The Association disputes the governor’s assertion gaming will become illegal once the compact ends.
“No, it will be business as usual January 1,” Morgan said.
The tribe’s representative said nation leaders are open to all conversation, but he would like to see the proposed extension before commenting.
Stitt said the state is preparing to hire and out of state law firm to help fight a legal battle if an extension is not agreed to.
“I think tribal leadership is prepared, if that’s where Governor Stitt takes it,” Morgan said.
The fifteen-year gaming agreement between the state and the tribes is set to expire in just 2 weeks. But neither side agrees on what comes next.
The Chickasaw Nation has filed notice with the Department of Interior saying a legal fight may be imminent.