According to Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt, and as reported by the Associated Press, the US Department of the Interior (DOI) has approved two controversial tribal gaming compacts.
The compacts with the Otoe-Missouria and Comanche Nation tribes had a 45-day review period, which has now expired.
Stitt’s decision to sign the compacts in April was met with disapproval, with the state’s Attorney General Mike Hunter deeming them to be unlawful.
Since the compacts were put forward and signed, both Otoe-Missouria and the Comanche Nation have been suspended by the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association. That will last until at least the end of this year.
Following the end of the review period, Stitt said that both compacts were now “deemed approved”.
The tribes will, if this is the case, be allowed to offer Class III games. Alongside sports betting, this includes eSports and table games such as roulette, blackjack and poker. Slot machines would also be permitted.
In addition to the above, the two tribes would have permission to build new casinos in closer proximity to metropolitan areas. For the state, this could potentially lead to greater revenue due to higher accessibility.
In a statement, Stitt praised both tribes he had worked with. He said that they had “worked hard to secure fair terms for their citizens, and whose contributions throughout the negotiations ensured a more level playing field and modernized gaming market in Oklahoma.”
Should the compacts be published in the Federal Register of the US Government, the two tribes will be able to begin introducing the games mentioned above.
Hunter not so happy
After Stitt had approved the two legislative pieces almost two months ago, Hunter disapproved of them. Because they breached state gaming regulations in his eyes, he requested that the DOI rejected both.
He has since reacted to the DOI’s seeming refusal to do so, referring to their actions as “thoughtless and irresponsible”.
Hunter also had the following to say about the situation.
“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.
“I am deeply disappointed in Interior Secretary (David) Bernhardt’s abdication of his responsibility to all of Oklahoma’s Native American sovereigns, not just two.”
The Attorney General also pointed to the fact that sports betting is still illegal in Oklahoman law. Moreover, attempts to build new casinos would likely be met with opposition from other tribes.
Governor’s dispute with tribes in Oklahoma continues
Even before the two gaming compacts had been put forward, Stitt had been locked in a dispute with the tribal casinos of Oklahoma. This related to the validity of their gaming compacts.
Stitt argued that the 15-year deals expired at the beginning of this year, but didn’t renew automatically. That was, however, not the view of the tribes.
All parties had been given until the end of May to reach common ground. But as of yet, that has still not happened.
One tribe in a dispute with the state is the Chickasaw Nation. Senior Counsel Stephen Greetham spoke about the Comanche Nation and Otoe-Missouria compacts, and had the following to say.
“The risk of the agreements’ illegality remains with Governor Stitt and the two signing Tribes, and since several federal law defects have already been publicly documented, more litigation is likely.”
There are currently around 130 casinos located throughout the Sooner State, many of which are in border communities. Last year, tribes paid nearly $150 million to the state. The majority of this was intended for use on the Oklahoman public schooling system.