The long running dispute involving the Governor of Oklahoma, Kevin Stitt and some of the state’s tribal gambling stakeholders has continued into 2020.
The dispute centres on exclusive gaming compacts, that Stitt insists expired at the end of 2019, but there has been an escalation in the last few days. The Governor has appointed Perkins Coie law firm, based in Seattle to oversee negotiations with the tribes. According to reports in the US media, the firm has had experience of negotiating on similar issues with other tribal groups.
Stitt reportedly wants the tribal organisations in Oklahoma to agree to higher rates in exchange for gambling exclusivity, but the tribes have filed a suit of their own seeking to prove that the existing compacts, which require them to pay a fee of between 4 and 6% remain in effect.
In December, the Choctaw, Chickasaw and Cherokee nations sought a declaration from a federal judge that the compacts, which give tribal casinos exclusive gambling rights, would be automatically renewed at the start of the year. They also claim that in setting exclusivity fees, their operations should not be compared to other forms of commercial casinos, which don’t make the same level of contribution to local communities.
But the Governor seems intent on sticking to his view that the compacts have to be renegotiated. Speaking about the impasse, he said that his new legal representatives would be addressing the detail of the tribes’ lawsuit and pushing for his agenda:
“With Perkins Coie, the State of Oklahoma is well positioned to work towards a compact that protects core public services and advances the future of our great state, its four million residents, and gaming tribes.”
But although Stitt contends that the existing compacts expired at the start of the new year, the tribes have continued to offer gambling services beyond that date and there has been no indication so far that the Governor intends to take enforcement action against tribal premises.