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OIGA Suspends Two Oklahoma Tribes Over Gaming Compacts Dispute

The Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association (OIGA) has suspended two member tribes after they signed compacts offering unregulated gaming verticals. 

Otoe-Missouria and the Comanche Nation both penned agreements with Governor Kevin Stitt last month, in which ‘Class III’ games – including sports betting – were included. 

But the OIGA objected to the two compacts and now, its board members have voted to halt the two groups’ memberships. 

To ensure that the suspensions could come into effect, the association also tweaked its bylaws accordingly. 

Out until the end of December 

Now that the OIGA has facilitated the temporary bans, both Otoe-Missouria and the Comanche Nation will be kicked out of the association until at least the end of this calendar year. 

From January 2021, the two tribes will be allowed to request that they are reinstated. 

OIGA Chairman Matthew Morgan shared his thoughts on the suspension of the two tribes, which were as follows. 

“This was a difficult decision to make, but it was the correct one. 

“The OIGA works best when its membership can speak frankly and with the trust that all members are working together to support our industry as a whole.”

For the two tribes to be accepted as members once their time out has passed, the association’s board members must vote in favor of this. 

The OIGA had expressed concerns when the compacts were signed 

On April 15th, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt had signed the compacts with both tribes. 

At the time, the OIGA expressed their reservations over both of them. They said that both agreements had been based on an erroneous claim of “unilateral state authority”. 

12 tribes, including the now-suspended duo, are currently in the midst of a dispute with the state over compacts. The association worried that the nature of the two that were signed would flare disagreements further. 

Few others were on board with the agreements either 

Attorney General Mike Hunter revealed his official opinion after Stitt had signed both compacts. In his view, the Governor did not have the power to add his signature. 

Both agreements contained a number of outlawed games. These were sports betting, eSports betting, blackjack, poker, slot machines and roulette. 

Gaming compacts with Oklahoman tribes must be signed off by the US Department of the Interior before coming into force. In his letter to the department’s Secretary David Berhardt, he requested that he refused to pass them. 

In addition to violating the Oklahoma State-Tribal Gaming Act, the two compacts also – in Hunter’s opinion – went against the Indian Regulatory Act. 

As he explained: “Because the Governor lacks authority to ‘enter into’ the agreements he has sent to you, those agreements fail to meet the requirements of IGRA to constitute a valid gaming compact under federal law. 

“How a state enters into a gaming compact with a tribe, including whether the Governor may do so unilaterally in contravention of state statute, is a core concern of the state’s constitutional structure and is therefore a matter of state law.”

Deadline for disputes edging closer 

Tribes in the Sooner State have been locked in a disagreement with the Governor for the duration of this year. According to Stitt, their previous compacts – designed to last for 15 years – expired on January 1st 2020. 

Stitt also argued that they were not automatically renewed under their existing terms. But the tribes disagreed, and subsequently took the matter to court. 

The state’s federal judges have given all parties involved until May 31st to come to a conclusion between them.

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