Oklahoma’s Governor Kevin Stitt Ready to Take Tribal Compacts to Court

Oklahoma’s Governor Kevin Stitt claims that unless Native Americans resolve the dispute with the state over the tribe’s compacts, they would be running some of their gambling operations illegally after January 1, 2020.

No Prospects of Solving the Dispute Over the Tribal Compacts Anytime Soon

The state and some of the native tribes have been in conflict for several months over the renewal of the tribal gambling compacts. According to the tribes, the compacts should automatically renew for another 15-year period starting Jan. 1 while Oklahoma state’s Republican governor Kevin Stitt claims they are only valid until the end of 2019. 

That is why Stitt wants to negotiate a new sum to be paid to the state for the tribes’ right to legally run casinos in Oklahoma. He insists on raising the tribal gambling tax to 25% instead of the current 4-10-percent deducted from gambling profits. In fact, 25 % is the highest rate paid by Native Americans in other parts of the country.

Still, the tribes are not going to give up on their position about the compacts’ automatic renewal, and plan to continue operating the games in 2020 as well. They are also refusing to start any discussions before the governor officially acknowledges their right to do that.

Oklahoma’s Governor Says the Case Might be Taken to Court

For his part, Governor Stitt said that a deal with the Native Americans was his major task for the moment. 

“From the very beginning, when I started these negotiations six months ago, I asked what is it worth to operate gaming in our state,” Stitt explained. 

“So far we haven’t had much success in getting them to come to the table to negotiate. We have three weeks left. We are looking at all of our options. We may have to let the courts decide the issue,” he added.

Obviously, his sentiment for a possible deal isn’t positive but he is still going to do his best to change the situation with the natives’ gambling compacts, thus ensuring more profits coming from gambling to the state.

He also mentioned that he has been contacted by some commercial operators who are ready to pay 18% on Class III games -far more than what is paid by the tribes for half of the Class III games.

Stitt didn’t reveal any of the companies’ names nor did he say who are the executives he has been negotiating with but it is known that most of the biggest casino companies are based in Las Vegas.

A solution needs to be found sooner or later but unfortunately, Oklahoma doesn’t have many options that would allow the state to proceed to a legal closure of the casinos. At least not without being against the Indian gambling law. As previously mentioned, the only possible scenario seems to be taking the case to court.

Nevertheless, undertaking legal action might not lead to the intended positive outcomes. According to Matthew Morgan, Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association chairman, a possible trial could permanently worsen the relations of the state with the tribes and put the 4.5-billion casino generated revenue and the 76,000 jobs within the gambling industry in Oklahoma at risk. 

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