Oklahoma Legislative Committee Rejects Tribal Gaming Compacts Negotiated by Governor
In a recent development, a legislative committee in Oklahoma has rejected the gaming compact that Governor Kevin Stitt had negotiated with two tribes in the state. This decision has dealt another blow to the Governor’s ongoing efforts to modify the state’s approach to tribal gaming.
The rejection took place during a hearing held by Oklahoma’s Joint Committee on State Tribal Relations. Members of the committee voiced concerns about the renegotiated gaming compacts potentially leading to casino expansion in Oklahoma County. This led to the committee voting down the compact agreements.
Trevor Pemberton, a representative for the governor, argued that the compacts would bring an economic boost to the state by increasing the proceeds collected from casino gaming compared to an earlier compact.
The two tribes involved, the United Keetoowah Band and the Kialegee Tribal Town, had negotiated the compacts in 2020, with the aim of allowing sports betting and the opening of new casinos in the state.
The rejection of the compacts came as a disappointment to the tribes, who were hopeful that new casinos would provide an economic uplift to their communities. United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians Chief Joe Bunch expressed his disappointment, stating that they were not given the opportunity to tell their side of the story.
Governor Stitt defended the compacts as an opportunity for smaller tribes to open casinos, which is currently only available to the largest tribes in the state.
The rejected compacts were among four that Governor Stitt had negotiated in 2020. Litigation related to these compacts is ongoing in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond has criticized the governor’s handling of the tribal gaming issue and is seeking to take over representing the state in the ongoing litigation.
The ongoing litigation involving the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Citizen Potawatomi, and Choctaw nations against the Interior Department and other defendants was cited as a reason to hold off on approving the compacts by State Sen. Kay Floyd.
The rejection of the gaming compact has further complicated the issue of tribal gaming in Oklahoma and has led to ongoing legal battles involving the state and the tribes.