OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The battle between the Governor of Oklahoma and the state’s Native American tribes over casino gaming continues as 2019 comes to a close.
This whole ordeal began back in July with Gov. Kevin Stitt sent out a letter to tribal leaders wanting to renegotiate the percentage of casino earnings the tribes pay back to the state as part of their Exclusivity Agreement.
The saga has now become a legal battle about the wording of the 15-year gaming compact that Governor Stitt says expires tonight.
The tribes say differently.
“We feel the language in the compact says it automatically renews and that’s how we are going to treat it on January 1,” said Governor Reggie Wassana of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes.
Other tribal leaders taking that sentiment a step further.
They are asking a judge to decide whether the compact automatically renews if a new deal is not worked out.
Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby saying in part,
“While we prefer negotiation to litigation, the Federal court is now the only reasonable alternative to bring legal certainty to this issue.”
Governor Stitt issued a statement on Tuesday saying two tribes have signed the 8-month compact extension he proposed earlier this month, but those two tribes do not have gaming in Oklahoma.
In regards to the lawsuit, the governor said in part,
“I am disappointed that a number of Oklahoma tribes, led by the Chickasaw, Cherokee, and Choctaw Nations, did not accept the State’s offer on Oct. 28 for a three-panel arbitration to resolve our dispute outside of court. This was a capstone action to their numerous refusals to meet with State and begin negotiations on the Model Gaming Compact to ensure a win-win for all parties by the end of this year. I was elected to represent all 4 million Oklahomans, and I will continue to be laser-focused on an outcome that achieves a fair deal and is in the best interest of the state and its citizens.”
But some tribal leaders disagree. They say they were not approached by Gov. Stitt in good faith.
“I haven’t seen him at any of our meetings that we have had and it would have been good if he would have walked thru the door and said this is what I want to do. What can you do? When you are treated like a 3rd class citizen, when you are disrespected, you are almost dehumanized, what is the tribe supposed to do?” said Wassana.
Tribal leaders expect casino gaming to continue as normal on the first day of 2020.
Governor Stitt has said he plans to do a state audit of Tribal Casinos.
Some tribal leaders say the language of the current compact does not allow for that.