Governor Kevin Stitt is dealt a second legal blow in the past week in his battle with Oklahoma tribes over gaming compacts.
The federal court sided with the tribes over Stitt, ruling that the gaming compact did automatically renew on January 1.
The ruling comes on the heels of a state supreme court ruling last week that the governor does not have the authority to enter into agreements with tribes.
A federal court ruled Tuesday morning that the gaming compacts that expired on January 1 automatically renew.
“The State strains in its arguments to attach special meanings to the verb ‘authorize’ (distinguishing it from ‘license’) and the adjective ‘governmental’ (replacing it with ‘legislative’),” the court ruled. “It does so by reference to state laws and federal case authorities, rather than the ordinary meanings of the words used in the Compacts.”
“As we said all along, tribal leaders were clear that they thought that it was pretty cut and dry that the compacts renew,” Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association Chairman Matthew Morgan said. “Unfortunately, it took us over a year and a lot of money to get the same answer they offered so long ago.”
Stitt has been in a long and costly battle with the tribes over the compacts, spending about $1.5 million arguing the agreements expire and must be renegotiated.
“For him to continue to waste time on it, to go down a road fraught with perils, is not the way I want my governor as a citizen of the state of Oklahoma to act,” Morgan said. “We have other things that need our attention. Other items where this money could be spent.”
“I am deeply disappointed by the federal court’s ruling,” Gov. Stitt said, in part, in a statement. “It confirms my fears, and the fears of many fellow Oklahomans, that the State entered into a poorly negotiated deal and now we must bear the cost of this mistake.”
Stitt is not saying whether he’ll challenge the decision or waive the white flag and sit down with the tribes to discuss gaming fees paid to the state.
“But that has never been what he’s been about. He’s never offered anything in the boundaries of the existing compact,” Morgan said. “And that’s just been an unfortunate way to conduct business and that’s not the way tribal leaders are used to doing business. Just imagine what we could have accomplished if we were both on the same page and working together.”