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Oklahoma Tribal Gaming Compacts Deemed Unlawful by Attorney General

Both Oklahoma tribal gaming compacts signed by Governor Kevin Stitt last month are non-compliant with state regulations, according to Attorney General Mike Hunter. 

Both agreements include prohibited gaming activity. Stitt does not have the authority to authorize pacts that include this. 

Hunter was partially referring to sports betting, with other illegal verticals also included. The two tribes these agreements were made with were Otoe-Missouria and Comanche Nation. 

Following his decision, the Attorney General has requested that the Secretary of the Interior David Berhardt rejects both agreements. 

The Interior Department is responsible for ratifying compacts before they become official.

Compacts not in line with more than one piece of legislation 

The agreements would have allowed both tribes to expand the number of Class III games they could offer. As part of this, sports betting would have been included. 

Stitt’s agreement with both tribes was deemed to be out-of-line with the State-Tribal Gaming Act. In this, state officials are only allowed to agree compacts that exclude products forbidden in state law. 

In the act, slot machines and house-banked games involving dice or roulette wheels are both prohibited. Moreover, “games where the winner is determined by the outcome of a sporting contest” are banned. 

Along with sports betting, the agreed compacts had included eSports betting, poker, roulette, slot machines and blackjack. 

Hunter explained that the compacts do not comply with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act either. In his letter to Berhardt, he said the following.

“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.”

The dispute continues 

Including the two tribes with whom compacts were agreed, the state must resolve gaming-related disputes with 12 Oklahoman tribes.

Hunter, who had questioned the legality of both agreements in April, released his official opinion after the Oklahoma House and Senate Leadership asked for this. The Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association (OIGA) has already referred to the pacts as an erroneous claim of “unilateral state authority”.

The Attorney General feels that the two agreements could cause more harm than good to the relationship between the state and tribes. He said that “for all tribes in Oklahoma, approval of these agreements as gaming compacts will only cause greater confusion and uncertainty about how state-tribal relations should be appropriately conducted.”

How did the disputes begin? 

Stitt has argued that the tribes’ gaming compacts did not automatically under their existing terms. These expired on January 1st 2020. 

However, this opinion was not shared by the 12 disputing parties. As a result, they opted to take the matter to court. 

Oklahoma’s federal judges have set a deadline of May 31st for Stitt and the tribes to reach a compromise with one another.

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