OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Governor Kevin Stitt, joined by United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians (UKB) Chief Joe Bunch and Kialegee Tribal Town (KTT) Mekko Stephanie Yahola, sent letters to the Joint Committee on State-Tribal Relations, Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat and House Speaker Charles McCall, requesting they approve the tribes’ gaming compacts that were rejected by the Oklahoma Supreme Court in 2021.
“I’m proud of the compacts Chief Bunch, Mekko Yahola and I negotiated for Oklahoma, the UKB and the KTT,” said Governor Stitt. “These compacts are better for all Oklahomans, requiring a higher percentage of gaming revenue to be remanded to the state while opening up this industry to the UKB and the KTT. Additionally, these compacts reflect our good faith efforts and demonstrates our ability and willingness reach agreements with tribes. I look forward to continued collaboration with our tribal partners and I call on the Joint Committee to convene and promptly endorse the compact.”
Neither tribe is currently a member of the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association (OIGA), but these compacts give the UKB and KTT access to the gaming market that wasn’t previously available to them, according to the Governor’s office.
The compacts were deemed invalid by the Oklahoma Supreme Court in 2021.
The high court determined because Stitt negotiated different terms to those included in a model gaming compact approved by voters in 2004, and without approval of a joint legislative committee, the agreements aren’t proper.
Now, the question remains: if the compacts have remained unchanged, would the legislature’s approval be enough to legitimize the agreements?
KFOR has reached out to the Attorney General’s office for his legal opinion and we were told “Attorney General Drummond will review the compacts and other relevant information to determine their legitimacy before making any comment.”
News 4 also reached out to legislative leaders.
Senate Pro Tem Treat told us, “We were made aware of the existence of the compacts in conjunction with the press release being sent. We are reviewing them and communicating with the attorney general to see how these differ from the previous compacts that were ruled unconstitutional.”
KFOR’s Capitol Bureau Chief Kaylee Olivas will continue to follow this. It will likely be next week before any determinations are made.