DOI Approves Two Contested Tribal Compacts in Oklahoma

The gaming compacts signed by Governor Stitt with the Kialegee Tribal Town and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians were deemed as approved by the Department of Interior. In contrast, Chairman Morgan of the Oklahoma Indian Association deemed the compacts as “unlawful”.

U.S. Department of Interior Approves Two Gaming Compacts in Oklahoma

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) approved two gambling compacts signed Governor Kevin Stitt, announced the Governor’s office. The gaming compacts which the Governor signed were with the Kialegee Tribal Town (KTT) and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians (UKB). The Department of Interior had 45 day period to review those compacts which ended this week Thursday. As a result, the gaming compacts were “deemed approved”.

The new gaming compacts increase the fees which the tribal operators pay from 6% to as high as 13%. According to the Governor’s office, the gaming compacts strengthen compact transparency. Furthermore, the new compacts will strengthen the State-Tribal relationships in the future and introduce fresh options for additional revenue for public education. Here it is important to mention that the newly approved compacts with the KTT and UKB do not include sports betting. And Oklahoma is yet to legalize sports betting.

But here is what Governor Stitt said in a statement: “The U.S. Department of Interior recognizes the State’s good faith effort to negotiate with Oklahoma tribes in the approval of two new gaming compacts that will generate new revenue for public schools in the future and expand economic opportunity for our tribal partners.”

Gambling Compacts Saga in Oklahoma Continues

The hurdle over gambling compacts began last year. Back then, Governor Stitt argued that the tribal gambling compacts do not automatically renew. This was an effort of the Governor to increase the revenue from taxes. As a result, the tribes took the Governor to court. The argument came to an end last month when US District Court Judge Timothy DeGiusti ruled in favor of the tribes. This meant that the gambling compacts of the tribes have automatically renewed on January 1, 2020, for a period of 15 years.

Governor Stitt also signed two gambling compacts with the Comanche Nation and the Otoe-Missouria Tribe back in April. The compacts proved to be controversial as sports betting was included even though it is not legalized. As a result, last month the Oklahoma Supreme Court deemed the two compacts as invalid under Oklahoma law.

The two newly approved gambling compacts with the KTT and UKB caught the attention of the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association. The association’s Chairman Matthew L. Morgan expressed his disappointment in a statement. He said that the situation is confusing, given that the DOI allowed the time to run out without taking any action. Morgan deemed the gambling agreements signed by Governor Stitt as “unlawful”. In conclusion, he said that the inaction will result in unnecessary and time-consuming litigation.

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