Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt announced that the two new gaming compacts with the Otoe-Missouria Tribe and the Comanche Nation have been deemed approved by the US Department of the Interior (DOI), hailing the negotiation efforts that secured a more level playing field and modernized gaming market in the state.
“I am extremely pleased to learn that these new compacts have been deemed approved by the federal government…With these new gaming compacts, Oklahoma is ushering in a new era of prosperity, opportunity, and partnership for the state and the Tribes.”St.Gov. Kevin Stitt
While hailing the “deemed approved” new compacts from one side, Governor Stitt is still heavily involved in lawsuits with other tribes, on the other, arguing about the automatic renewal of their state compacts, and the reality is that the action from the DOI, or more like the inaction, will cause more controversy than bring clarity into the complicated situation in the state. DOI had until June 8 to approve, reject or let the two compacts come into effect without taking action, and it elected for the latter.
Higher Taxes for the State
According to the terms of the new compacts, the Otoe-Missouria and the Comanche Nation, will be authorized to provide sports betting and sports contests, including esports, offer banked card and table games, and most importantly, build up to three new casinos each. The new land-based gaming facilities can also be located in close proximity to the metropolitan areas.
The state will receive a higher percent from the gambling revenues of the tribal operations compared to the terms of the compacts with the other tribes, an issue that caused a significant rift among them, forcing the suspension of the two tribes from the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association. The two tribes defended their stance, claiming that their deals were a product of good-faith negotiations compliant with federal and state law.
DOI Inaction Adds to the Complicated Situation
The act from DOI to let the compacts come into effect without taking action was slammed by the state’s Attorney General Mike Hunter, who had issued and opinion prior to the period for consideration by DOI, stating that the compacts should be rejected as the provisions for sports betting violate state law.
Calling out the thoughtlessness and irresponsible inaction of the federal officials, Oklahoma AG pointed out that no tribe can start operating under the terms of these compacts before the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling is issued.
Leaders from state legislature asked the Supreme Court last week to clarify whether there was an overstepping of authority by the state governor when he negotiated the terms of the new gaming compacts, and specifically to allow them to offer sports betting.