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Oklahoma Tribal Gaming Compacts Rejected by Supreme Court

The Supreme Court in Oklahoma has rejected two tribal gaming compacts that included betting on both sports and eSports. 

State Governor Kevin Stitt had signed these compacts with the Otoe-Missouria and Comanche Nation tribes in April. 

At the beginning of this year, Stitt had argued that all tribes with gaming compacts had to re-negotiate their old ones. 

The Supreme Court argued that the Governor had acted above his authoritative powers.

Supreme Court overwhelmingly votes against the compacts 

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court voted 7-1 against allowing the two compacts that Stitt had signed.

In the Otoe-Missouria and Comanche Nation’s gaming compacts, forbidden Class III games were included.

As things stand, sports betting is illegal in Oklahoma. And as the Supreme Court said, the deals cannot be deemed as legal because they include games that aren’t approved. Therefore, revenue from these verticals is not allowed. 

The Court argued that the “primary role” of Stitt, who was recently diagnosed with COVID-19, “is in the faithful execution of the law”. This is despite him having “a role” in setting Oklahoman public policy.

Following the Otoe-Missouria and Comanche Nation compacts being signed by the Governor, the two tribes were suspended by the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association (OIGA). These will last until at least the end of this year, with both being able to reapply in 2021. 

Attorney General happy with the Supreme Court’s decision 

After the two gaming compacts were signed, Attorney General Mike Hunter released an official opinion. In this, he disagreed with Stitt’s decision. But in spite of this, the Department of the Interior went against his wishes and approved them last month. 

Responding to this week’s ruling, Hunter said the following. 

“The Supreme Court affirmed what my office has opined, and the pro tem of the Senate and the speaker of the House of Representatives have argued all along, the governor lacks the authority to enter into and bind the state to compacts with Indian tribes that authorize gaming activity prohibited by state law.

“We applaud today’s ruling and appreciate the court for carefully looking at this and coming to an apt conclusion.”

The two tribes disagree with the Supreme Court 

In contrast to Hunter’s praises for the Supreme Court’s decision, the two tribes whose compacts have been rejected weren’t so happy. 

Comanche Chairman William Nelson argued that his tribe’s compact is “legal under federal law. He also said that this was a “matter of tribal sovereignty”.

Meanwhile, Otoe-Missouria Chairman John Shotton was equally as miffed. In his eyes, the Court “doesn’t have jurisdiction to invalidate our compact when state and federal law dictates that our compact is legal”. 

Stitt ordered tribes to renegotiate compacts back in January 

January 1st 2020 signified the end of Oklahoman tribes’ 15-year period for the gaming compacts that came into force in 2004. 

And this is where they had differing views to the Governor. While Stitt argued that they all now needed to be renegotiated, the state’s tribes believed that they renewed automatically. This has led to a lengthy dispute. 

This month, Stitt has signed gaming compacts with two tribes – the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians (UKB) and Kialegee Tribal Town (KTT). These two compacts only include games that are already in the state legislature.

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