Oklahoma’s Indian tribes say the governor is taking a big gamble, challenging them on gaming agreements. Meanwhile, the governor is digging his heels in on this one, insisting that he’s right and the tribes are wrong.
“It has nothing to do with the tribes or their sovereignty. It has to what is a market fair deal to operate exclusive rights to operate gaming in our state,” said Governor Kevin Stitt.
With the state’s 15-year gaming compacts expiring in January, the governor and the tribes are at odds about what to do next. The governor said the tribes have to come to the table to negotiate new rates.
“I know that they say that they auto-renew. They don’t auto-renew. You can’t have a contract in perpetuity that continues forever on one side,” said Gov. Stitt.
But the tribes said, without an agreement, the compacts will renew as is. According to the compact, if “licensees or others are authorized to conduct electronic gaming…the compact shall automatically renew for successive additional 15-year terms.”
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Senior Counsel for the Chickasaw Nation Stephen Greetham said, “Remington Park has been operating legally ever since the compact went into effect. So has Will Rogers… I’m not sure who is advising Governor Stitt on his legal interpretation of the compact, but the language is plain. The compact automatically renews come January 1, 2020.”
Gov. Stitt said, “And if I was on their side of the table, I’d probably make the same argument. But I’m representing what’s best for Oklahoma.”
The tribes said the governor can ask to renegotiate the amount the tribes pay the state, but renegotiating the entire compact is out of the question. They said the state received $148-million under the current gaming contracts this year alone.
News 9 asked whether the tribes believe this will wind up in court. The tribes said right now, they hold all the cards.
“Speaking with other tribal attorneys, we’re not confused about what the compact means. So, we’re not particularly interested in bringing a lawsuit to convince us of what we already know to be true,” said Greetham.