Battle Over Indian Gaming Compacts In Oklahoma Reaches Federal Government

Tuesday, May 5th 2020, 8:21 pm
By: Jonathan Cooper

The battle over Indian gaming compacts in Oklahoma has now reached the federal government.

Attorney General Mike Hunter sent a letter Tuesday to the Department of the Interior requesting they reject new compacts signed by Governor Kevin Stitt and two Oklahoma tribes.

In April, Governor Stitt reached agreement with the Comanche and Otoe-Missouria tribes.

Those new compacts would give both tribes the ability to build more casinos and offer sports betting, for higher exclusivity fees paid to the state down the line.

In Tuesday’s letter, Hunter says the Governor does not have the authority to enter into that type of agreement because he claims it violates the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

Additionally, since sports betting is not legal right now in the state, Hunter says the Governor is authorizing the violation of state law.

The Governor's office disagrees saying several legal experts reviewed the compacts and are confident they are valid under both state and federal law.

"These new compacts are meant to address what we view to be a more modern reflective compact of the industry," said Phillip Whaley, the attorney representing the state, back in April.

This afternoon, both the Comanche Nation and Otoe-Missouria tribes released a statement saying in part "Our compacts were negotiated in good faith. The political fight between the governor and the attorney general over sports betting is not our concern and does not impact the legality of the compacts. We look forward to approval of the compacts, which are good for our tribal members, our local communities and the state as a whole."

The Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association also released the following statement:

“We appreciate Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter’s clear analysis of the law and his strong letter to the United States Secretary of the Interior. As the Attorney General states and we have argued for some time, Governor Stitt does not have the authority to bind Oklahoma to his empty promises. Oklahoma and the Tribes deserve better than the carelessness Governor Stitt has brought to the table, and the Attorney General’s analysis encourages us that we will be able to reestablish the sort of Tribal-State engagement that conforms to the law and serves all of us well. Oklahomans deserve no less from state government, and the Tribes remain committed to that result.”

The following is also a new statement from the Governor’s Office:

“These compacts are unquestionably legal and deliver unprecedented guarantees of clarity, stability, and transparency for all Sovereign parties, and for the benefit of all 4 million Oklahomans. Governor Stitt stands with the State’s tribal partners, the Comanche Nation and Otoe-Missouria Tribe, who negotiated in good faith new, modernized gaming compacts pursuant to federal law.” – Baylee Lakey, Communications Director