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Tribal gaming group condemns compact offer made to some Oklahoma tribes

Tribal gaming group condemns compact offer made to some Oklahoma tribes

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An Oklahoma tribal gaming group said member nations have rejected what is being called an offer of compromise in a dispute over state-tribal gaming compacts, calling the measure “disrespectful and disingenuous.”

The Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association said in a statement Friday that the offer, apparently sent to tribes not involved in a federal lawsuit, was an “unsuccessful attempt” by Gov. Kevin Stitt to divide the tribes.

“The letter confirms the real intent of Governor Stitt is to destroy the tribal interest outlined in the existing compacts,” according to comments attributed to OIGA Chairman Matthew L. Morgan. “The tribal leaders who received the letter reject the proposal as disrespectful and disingenuous.”

Morgan is referring to a March 24-dated letter and proposed compact that he said was sent to Oklahoma tribes that are not plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit filed Dec. 31 against Stitt’s office over the status of gaming compacts between tribes and the state.

In the letter, a copy of which was provided by the OIGA to the Tulsa World, an attorney working on behalf of Stitt’s office in the lawsuit notes the COVID-19 pandemic, saying it has changed the landscape of Oklahoma’s tribal and non-tribal environment.

“Now more than ever is a time for us to stand together,” the letter signed by attorney Steven Mullins states.

“With this letter … the State hopes to set aside our differences by sending a message to all Oklahomans, native and non-native, that we are committed to a strong and prosperous future,” Mullins continues.

The governor’s office issued this response to the OIGA statement:

“Since day one, the Governor has been committed to negotiating with every tribe in Oklahoma, no matter a tribe’s size or location, to achieve a win-win for the future of tribal gaming in our state. The State has been aggressively communicating with every tribe in Oklahoma to advance a common-sense solution on Model Gaming Compacts. We cannot comment on the details of compact negotiations while engaged in court-ordered mediation, which is still on going.”

Eleven Oklahoma tribes are suing Stitt’s office over the status of the gaming compact. They have asked a federal judge to rule that their gaming compacts with the state automatically renewed Jan. 1. Stitt believes that they expired at that time. The judge has ordered mediation in the case be completed by May 31.

The governor is seeking to increase the exclusivity fees tribes pay the state in exchange for the right to operate Class III gaming, which includes slot machines, roulette and craps. Last year those fees, between 4% and 10%, amounted to $150 million to the state.

The tribes have continued to operate Class III gaming and remit fees to the state during the time in question. However, tribal gaming operations across the state have been shuttered in recent weeks in an effort to stem the spread of COVID-19.

The proposed compact purports to remove regulations that “interfered” with gaming operations and includes sports wagering among games that are covered by the agreement, among other features.

Thirty-five Oklahoma tribes currently have gaming compacts with the state, 24 of which are not a part of the litigation, according to the OIGA.

The following tribes are plaintiffs in the gaming compact lawsuit against Stitt’s office:

Cherokee Nation, Chickasaw Nation, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma, Delaware Nation of Oklahoma, Otoe-Missouria Tribe, Comanche Nation, Seminole Nation and Wichita and Affiliated Tribes.

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Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum and Dr. Gerard Clancy answer reader questions in a Tulsa World “Let’s Talk” virtual forum, sponsored by the George Kaiser Family Foundation and the University of Tulsa.

Tribal gaming 101: What you need to know about Oklahoma tribal gaming

Curtis Killman


Twitter: @loucardfan61

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