Oklahoma: Supreme Court Rejects Controversial State Compacts

The Oklahoma Supreme Court issued a ruling yesterday stating that the two gaming compacts which St.Gov. Kevin Stitt signed with the Comanche Nation and the Otoe-Missouria Tribe, are invalid under Oklahoma law.

Governor’s Tactics of ‘Divide & Conquer’ Backfired

The 2 controversial compact deals were signed by the governor in April, in search of more revenue for the state. Gov. Stitt allowed the Otoe-Missouria Tribe and the Comanche Nation to expand on their gambling operations by building up to 3 new casinos each and providing Class III gaming, including sports betting.

The deals caused a huge rift among the tribes in Oklahoma, with both tribes being suspended by the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association. The compacts met opposition from Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter, who opined the governor had no legal grounds for authorizing an activity that is yet to be legalized by the state, asking the US Department of Interior (DOI) to reject the deals since the provisions for sports betting in them violate state law.

Last month DOI decided to let the 2 compacts come into effect without taking action, bringing more controversy rather than clarity regarding tribal compacts in the state, but now the Supreme Court voted 7-1 to reject the compacts. The court ruling stated the deals cannot be deemed legal as they include games that have not yet been approved in the state.

“…the state of Oklahoma is not and cannot be legally bound by these compacts until such time as the Legislature enacts laws to allow the specific class III gaming at issue, and in turn, allowing the Governor to negotiate additional revenue.”

Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling

State Attorney General Mike Hunter praised the court for its decision to reject the compacts, appreciating the effort to carefully look into the matter and to come to an apt conclusion.

“The Supreme Court affirmed what my office has opined, and the pro tem of the Senate and the speaker of the House of Representatives have argued all along, the governor lacks the authority to enter into and bind the state to compacts with Indian tribes that authorize gaming activity prohibited by state law.”

Mike Hunter, Oklahoma Attorney General

Unlike the state AG, the Chairman of the Otoe-Missouria Tribe, John R. Shotton, was not satisfied with the Supreme Court ruling and issued a statement expressing his view that the court had no jurisdiction to invalidate a compact deal that is legal by state and federal law.

“…We have said all along we do not plan to offer house-banked card and table games and event wagering until they are authorized by state law. Indeed, this condition was part of the compact, and it was unfortunately overlooked by the Court. We will continue to operate under the remaining terms of our compact pursuant to the severability clause of the compact, and we will refrain from operating any game that is not authorized under state law.”

John R. Shotton, Chairman, Otoe-Missouria Tribe

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt who is still entangled in legal battles with some of the tribes regarding the automatic renewal of their compacts, signed two more compact deals earlier in July. Stitt agreed with United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians (UKB) and Kialegee Tribal Town (KTT) to allow them to offer Class III gaming, but both deals do not include provisions for sports betting.

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