A lawsuit was filed against U.S. Department of the Interior and Governor Kevin Stitt by four Oklahoma tribes – The Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Citizen Potawatomi Nations.
The Hurdle over Gambling Compacts in Oklahoma Continues
Last week Friday, four tribes in Oklahoma filed a lawsuit against U.S. Department of the Interior and Governor Kevin Stitt. The lawsuit was over the gambling agreements signed by Stitt with the Comanche Nation and the Otoe-Missouria Tribe. The Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Citizen Potawatomi Nations filed the lawsuit together. The tribes sought declaration from the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. that federal law was violated by the U.S. Department of Interior by allowing the gambling agreements which were signed by Governor Stitt.
“While the Oklahoma Supreme Court has declared those agreements invalid under Oklahoma law, their validity under Federal law must also be addressed to avoid damage to the integrity of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act,”reads a statement issued by the attorneys for the tribes
The attorneys’ statement continued by outlining that the tribes have filed the law suit in order to protect the IGRA established framework as well as the tribal operations which are conducted under it.
The Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association chairman, Matthew Morgan expressed support for the tribes. In a statement, Morgan said: “As we have stated from the beginning, Governor Stitt never had the legal authority to enter into these gaming agreements.” He further added: “It is sad that Governor Stitt has placed the tribal governments in this position.“
The Gambling Compacts Signed by Governor Stitt
Back in July, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that the two gambling compacts signed by Governor Stitt with the Comanche Nation and the Otoe-Missouria Tribe are invalid under Oklahoma law. The highly controversial compacts were signed by the Governor back in April. With that move, the Governor was aiming at increasing the revenue from gambling tax for the state.
With that in mind, the gambling compacts signed also included sports betting which is yet to be established in Oklahoma. Besides the two controversial compacts, Governor Stitt’s campaign for raising more revenue from gambling taxes started last year. Back then, the Governor argued that the gambling compacts of the tribes do not automatically renew and tried to re-negotiate new terms.
The tribes disagreed and decided to take this to court. Last month, on July 28 this dispute has come to an end with ruling of US District Court Judge Timothy DeGiusti. Judge DeGiusti ruled in favor of the tribes, affirming that their gambling compacts have automatically renewed on January 1 2020 for a period of 15 years.
Another lawsuit was also filed last week due to the signed compacts by Governor Stitt with the Kialegee Tribal Town and Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians. The lawsuit was filed by Republican state Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat and Republican House Speaker Charles McCall who sought invalidation of those compacts. In response to this, the Governor’s attorneys argued that the compacts are valid, considering that they didn’t include sports betting.