Governor Kevin Stitt said Oklahoma's tribal gaming compacts expire at midnight on Jan. 1, 2020, but tribes are standing their ground by filing a federal lawsuit against the governor.
15 years ago, Oklahoma tribes signed a gaming compact to allow gambling in casinos in the state. The tribes said a clause means the compact will renew at midnight, but Stitt said the compact won't auto-renew.
"We know it he won't take our word for it and won't respect our position," said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. "We're gonna find someone he will respect, which is the federal courts."
On Tuesday, the Cherokee, Chickasaw and Choctaw nations filed a federal lawsuit against the governor to get a final word on the compact's "automatic renewal" clause.
Several other tribes said they're united with those nations.
"No tribe is out there saying it terminates tonight," said Hoskin Jr. "We don't need to extend something that renews."
Hoskin Jr. said the lawsuit has nothing to do with rates the state gets from tribal gaming. The governor said he would like more money from casinos and Hoskin Jr. says they're open to that discussion.
"It's not that we don't wanna sit down with the governor and talk about things including rates, but we won't do it with a phony deadline over our head," the principal chief said.
Governor Stitt released a statement Tuesday saying in part "I am disappointed that a number of Oklahoma tribes...did not accept the State's offer on Oct. 28 for a three-person arbitration panel to resolve our dispute outside of court."
Despite the governor saying gambling will be illegal at midnight, tribal leaders say they'll ring in the new year by playing the slots.
"It's gonna be a great year. We'll get past this," Hoskin Jr. said.
Two tribes announced that they're agreeing to an eight-month extension with Governor Stitt, but neither have gaming currently in their jurisdictions.