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Oklahoma Governor Signs Two Tribal Gaming Compacts

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt has signed gaming compacts with two of the state’s tribes.

The deals will both last for 15 years, with sports betting being permitted as part of them. 

The Comanche Nation and Otoe-Missouria tribes are the two that will be able to expand their offerings. 

Both compacts still need to be approved by the US Department of the Interior. 

A historic day 

In addition to sports betting, the gaming compacts in Oklahoma will include eSports, poker, roulette, slot machines and blackjack. These can be played at, or within, 1,000 feet of the tribes’ licensed venues. 

However, each tribe can only offer these forms of betting at two facilities.

These latest developments will benefit everybody in the state, according to Stitt. He said the following. 

“This is a historic day for the State of Oklahoma and for our tribal partners who are here with me today. 

“As an Oklahoman and a tribal citizen, it has been my heart’s desire to provide a level playing field for all 4 million Oklahomans and to ensure meaningful opportunities for all 38 federally recognized tribes that call our state home.” 

He also said the below. 

“This modernized gaming compact expands opportunities for our tribal partners, enhances revenue for the state from Class III and covered games, and will strengthen state-tribal relations for generations to come.” 

Gambling at Native American casinos was already legal in Oklahoma. Operators here generate over $2 billion in revenue yearly, according to figures published in an Associated Press article.

From this, the state received $150 million – much of which went into Oklahman schools.  

Opposition

Despite signing deals with the Comanche Nation and Otoe-Missouria, Stitt still has gambling-related disputes to solve with 10 other tribes.

According to the Governor, multiple tribes’ gaming compacts expired on January 1st 2020. However, the tribes believe that these deals were automatically renewed on their existing terms. Their disagreement with Sitt prompted many to sue him. Federal judges in the state have been given until May 31st to compromise. 

Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association Matthew Morgan believes that tribes have the independence to make their own decisions. However, he also argued that Sitt does not have the power to sign the two compacts that he did. 

Morgan’s words were as follows. 

“Governor Stitt does not have the authority to do what he claims to have done today. 

“Without the engagement of the Oklahoma Legislature, he has entered agreements based on a claim of unilateral state authority to legalize sportsbook, to revamp the Oklahoma Lottery, and to authorize new gaming facilities in Norman and Stillwater, among other places. That’s simply not the law.” 

He continued by suspecting that “his [Sitt’s] actions have not helped matters for anyone”. 

Another opponent is Mike Hunter, who is Oklahoma’s Republican Attorney General. He acknowledged that Sitt “has the authority to negotiate compacts with tribes on behalf of the state”. However, he questioned the legality of sports betting. 

“Only gaming activities authorized by the (Oklahoma Tribal Gaming) Act may be the subject of a tribal gaming compact,” Hunter said.

“Sports betting is not a prescribed ‘covered game’ under the act.”

Other practicalities of the two signed compacts 

The two tribes will, if the compacts are passed, pay 1.1% of their sports wagering handle to the state. They would also pay exclusivity fees equal to between 4.5% and 6% of net revenue at their existing casinos. 

At new casinos they choose to build, this exclusivity fee would rise to as high as 13%. Otoe-Missouria would be permitted to construct new casinos in Noble, Logan and Payne counties. Meanwhile, Comanche Nation would be able to build new venues in Cleveland, Grady and Love counties.

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