Gaming compacts between Oklahoma, tribes, expired at midnight, disputes continue

Tribes operating 'business as usual'

The gaming compacts between the State of Oklahoma and the 35 tribes operating casinos expired at midnight last night. Despite calls by Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt for casinos to stop operating games at midnight, tribes say for them, it’s still business as usual.

On December 17th, Governor Kevin Stitt laid it out for the tribes if new gaming compacts were not in place. Governor Stitt says “All Class III gaming activity will be illegal on January 1st of 2020.”

However, the tribes disagree with that and as of January 1st are continuing to operate business as usual. Eastern Shawnee Chief Glenna Wallace explains what’s been in place. “We have had a 15 year compact, what’s called exclusivity with the State of Oklahoma, meaning that only Indian tribes can operate casinos in the State of Oklahoma.”

The compacts expired January 1st at midnight but have a clause in them stating they will automatically renew for 15 years on that date, unless a renegotiation is requested by either the state or the tribes. In this case, the state requested negotiations, but the tribes didn’t agree with the terms, and believe until new terms are negotiated, the compact will automatically renew.

Now, the Cherokee, Choctaw, and Chickasaw tribes are filing a federal suit against the state. Chief Wallace says “This lawsuit is about the automatic renewal only, it is not discussing change in rates or anything else, those are discussions that we will have to have later and look forward to having.”

Chief Wallace says the Eastern Shawnee Tribe is in full support of the suit.

However, Governor Stitt, issued this statement saying quote “I am disappointed that a number of Oklahoma tribes, led by the Chickasaw, Cherokee, and Choctaw nations, did not accept the state’s offer on Oct. 28 for a three-person arbitration panel to resolve our dispute outside of court. This was a capstone action to their numerous refusals to meet with state and begin negotiations on the model gaming compact to ensure a win-win for all parties by the end of this year.”

Wallace says she’s hopeful the court will see the compacts the way the tribes do. “It will go to a court and we’re hoping a resolution and that the compact will be interpreted exactly how as we have interpreted all along, that if certain conditions were met, it would automatically renew.”

Governor Stitt says two tribes have signed an 8 month compact extension which he proposed on December 17th. Those two tribes however, do not have any gaming operations in the state.