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Tribal leaders speak out against renegotiating tribal gaming agreement

OKLAHOMA CITY – Tribal leaders are responding after Governor Kevin Stitt said he wanted to renegotiate the state’s tribal gaming agreement.

Officials say Native American tribes have paid the state more than $140 million a year in gaming exclusivity fees. However, the 15-year deal between the tribes and the state is set to expire in January.

Recently, Stitt issued a letter to 35 tribal leaders, calling on them to negotiate the agreement before it expires. Many tribal leaders say the letter came as a shock to them, adding that they believe the agreement will automatically renew for another 15 years if there is no new deal reached.

On Friday, the Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes signed a resolution, opposing Gov. Stitt's attempt to renegotiate the deal.

"Tribal leaders expressed their disappointment in the action by Gov. Stitt to take a matter of such great importance to the media before engaging in respectful and purposeful conversations given the complexity of the compacts and the law. The ITC memorialized through the joint resolution their collective intent to reject the state's attempt to unlawfully and unilaterally terminate the compact," the resolution reads.

The resolution was signed by the chiefs or governors of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee and Seminole nations.

"We have considered the state of Oklahoma a trustworthy partner through the years. Working together we have made strides in building a better, stronger and more prosperous Oklahoma for the benefit of the hundreds of thousands of members of our Tribes who live and work here as well as all residents of this great State. We can trace the starting point of our constructive partnership to the carefully crafted and balanced approach represented in the current compact negotiated in a respectful manner between the State of Oklahoma and the sovereign Tribes residing in Oklahoma. This compact represents a continuing and mutually beneficial partnership. The recent action of Governor Stitt puts into question his sincerity to work with us in a cooperative manner moving ahead. We are resolute in our position, and it is our hope Governor Stitt and his advisors will not attempt any bad faith interference on the compact which could set back the progress we have achieved by working together," a joint statement read.

Governor Kevin Stitt responded late Friday by sending KFOR this statement:

“Oklahoma is comprised of 39 federally-recognized tribes and roughly 4 million people, and I was elected to give a fresh eye to all agreements, laws, and actions by state government and to make the hard decisions that consider every individual who calls this great state home. Dating back to the campaign, I was transparent and clear that, as governor, I would seek a fair-market deal regarding the State’s Tribal Gaming Compacts that expire on January 1, 2020. This 15-year-old compact established some of the lowest gaming fees in the nation, and the tribes have been fantastic, successful business leaders in our state, turning their gaming industry in Oklahoma into the third largest in the nation today. I am committed to open discussions with all Tribal partners and to achieving an outcome that spurs more funding for public education, grows opportunity for the tribes, and is a successful partnership for the state and future generations of Oklahomans.”

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