Controversial Oklahoma Gambling Compacts Secure Federal OK

A new gambling compact between two Oklahoma tribes and the state has secured federal approval, Gov. Kevin Stitt announced Monday.

However, the Governor’s announcement will likely widen an already massive chasm between him and ten other Oklahoma tribal nations. Despite the federal approval, Republican Gov. Stitt will also remain locked in prolonged legal battle with those ten other tribes as well as with legislative leaders from his own party.

RELATED: Bad Blood Between Oklahoma Tribes over Gambling Compacts Flares Up

The gambling compacts between Oklahoma and the Otoe-Missouria Tribe and the Comanche Nation were both “deemed approved” by the U.S. Department of the Interior after the federal agency did not act within a 45-day review period.

The Interior Department had until June 8 to OK the gambling compacts, reject them, or let them come into effect without action. The latter happened.

Under the provisions of the compacts, the two tribes would be able to offer sports betting and betting on eSports contests, offer banked card and table games, and build three new casinos each. The tribal nations will be able to develop their new gambling venues closer to metropolitan areas. In exchange, the state will receive a larger cut of the tribes’ gambling revenues than what it gets now.

Governor Still Locked in Heavy Legal Dispute

The now federally approved agreements with the two tribes will likely draw further protests from ten other Oklahoma casinos.

The dispute between the ten tribal nations and Gov. Stitt formed last summer when the state’s top official told tribes that their gambling compacts with Oklahoma would expire on December 31, 2019 and new ones had to be negotiated.

Tribal chiefs argued that the old agreements renewed automatically on January 1. Three of Oklahoma’s most powerful tribes – the Cherokee, Chickasaw, and Choctaw nations – have filed a lawsuit against Gov. Stitt, seeking a declaratory judgment that their old 15-year compacts renewed automatically for another 15 years.

In April, Gov. Stitt announced that he has reached a deal with the Otoe-Missouria Tribe and the Comanche Nation.

The two gambling compacts pitted Oklahoma’s top official against the state’s Attorney General, Mike Hunter. The latter official said last month in an official opinion that the Interior Department should reject the new deals as some of their provisions violated state law. Attorney General Hunter named sports betting as one of the controversial provisions.

The state’s Attorney General, a Republican, said Monday slammed the Interior Department for its “thoughtlessness and irresponsible inaction” and noted that “the tribes cannot begin operating under the terms of these compacts until the many questions that remain pending before the Oklahoma Supreme Court are resolved.”

Republican legislative leaders last week asked the state’s Supreme Court to rule on whether Gov. Stitt has overstepped his authority when he negotiated the new deals with the two tribes.

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