OKLAHOMA CITY — An American Indian law expert says Gov. Kevin Stitt is using incorrect figures to make a case for renegotiating the state’s tribal gaming compacts.
In a recent opinion piece, Stitt said “most” tribal compacts nationwide include gaming exclusivity fees that pay states 20% to 25%, compared to the 4% to 6% that Oklahoma gets from its compacts which were agreed upon more than a decade ago.
“This statement is simply not true,” said Stephen Greetham, Chickasaw Nation general counsel.
Greetham said that as of June 2015, only 14 out of 276, or 5% of the tribal-state gaming compacts across the country, provided rates that high.
The most common tribal-state gaming compact rate is zero, Greetham said. Some 107 of the 276 compacts, or 39%, have a payment of zero, he said.
The majority of compacts, 56%, have a rate of less than 10%, Greetham said.
Donelle Harder, a Stitt spokeswoman, was asked about the discrepancies.
Of the 169 compacts around the nation (five years ago) that included revenue-sharing provisions, 164 involved payments tied to gaming revenues and a large majority of those had maximum rates higher than Oklahoma’s Class III machines, Harder said.
Tribes operate 131 gaming facilities in Oklahoma. Tribal gaming has generated more than $1.6 billion for the state from Class III gaming, which includes slot machines, roulette and craps.
Stitt believes the compacts expire on Jan. 1, 2020, and must be renegotiated.
Several tribes are under the impression the compacts are evergreen, with an opportunity to renegotiate certain terms.
Many tribes first got notice of the governor’s desire to renegotiate through a Tulsa World opinion piece published in early July before also sending letters regarding the matter.
Greetham called Stitt’s handling of the matter “unfortunate.”
Tribes have operated in good faith and abided by the compacts for 15 years, he said.
“The way we look at it, the state of Oklahoma has derived enormous benefit,” Greetham said.
Stitt’s comments, said Greetham, implied that tribes were not doing their fair share, which came across as offensive.
But Harder expressed that Stitt is proud of the various ways in which tribes are growing Oklahoma and contributing to the state’s success.
“He wants to expand that opportunity for them with a compact that reflects market practices,” she said.
She quoted Stitt as saying, “As your governor, I am absolutely committed to reaching new agreements with our tribal partners that recognize their historic and significant economic contributions to Oklahoma and provide a framework for them to have even more continued economic growth in the years ahead.”
Greetham said Stitt is treating the situation like there is an adversarial relationship between the tribes and state government, which is not true.
He said Stitt has ambushed the tribes in an apparent effort to manufacture a crisis where none exists.
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