OK Governor: No More ‘One-Size-Fits-All’ Compacts
Two Oklahoma tribes signed new gaming compacts with Governor Kevin Stitt (l.), providing lower exclusivity fees and allowing them to build new casinos, as well as offering sports betting. But tribal casinos located near cities or along highways out of Texas or Kansas would pay much higher fees than those in more isolated areas.
Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt’s new gaming compacts with the Otoe-Missouria and Comanche nations illustrate how he’d like to proceed with future compacts: by expanding gambling through new casinos and new types of gambling like sports betting, and basing fees paid to the state on geography, not a flat rate statewide. “No longer are we going to have a one-size-fits-all compact. Other states have different compacts for different tribes and we’re going down the same path here,” Stitt said.
Stitt previously expressed that he’d like to raise exclusivity fees paid by tribes to the state; however, the two new compacts actually have lower fees. Stitt explained the state would receive more revenue from new casinos and sports betting as allowed in the new compacts. However, lower fees would not be part of new compacts with tribes that operate casinos in more desirable locations, like those closer to urban centers and along highways out of Texas. Stitt said if a casino can attract players from Texas or Kansas, its fee should be much higher than a casino in a more isolated area.
Oklahoma tribes sued Stitt last year, claiming the 15-year old compact automatically renewed on January 1. Stitt claims the compact expired. The tribes disagree.
A court-ordered mediation is ongoing. The tribes who lead the lawsuit against Stitt–the Cherokee, Choctaw and Chickasaw nations–account for over half of all gaming business in the state. Even the Otoe-Missouria and Comanche tribes that signed new compacts disagree with Stitt’s interpretation of the original compact, although the Stitt administration believes smaller tribes have not always been happy with the larger tribes’ power and influence.
The new compacts allow the Otoe-Missouria and Comanche tribes to seek land for gaming outside their boundaries. However, any new casino they build must be approved by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Also, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter has said the two new tribal gaming compacts were “not authorized” by state law.
Regarding sports betting, the tribes suing Stitt assert the governor does not have the authority to approve it, and legislators, who receive thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the largest tribes, said sports betting requires their approval. In a joint statement, House Speaker Charles McCall and Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat said, “The legislature is interested in gaming agreements that truly unite the state of Oklahoma with all tribal nations. Sadly, the documents signed between Stitt and the Otoe-Missouria and Comanche nations are legally flawed and sow more division than unity.”