An ongoing battle between Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and the state’s American Indian Tribes has heated back up. Gov. Stitt has asked a federal court to prevent the state’s tribes from operating a Class III gaming license. He states that it is illegal. A few of the tribes initiated a lawsuit against Stitt in December of 2019. The purpose of the legal action was to protect their 15-year gaming compacts. The tribes are asking the court to uphold the automatic renewal on Jan. 1, 2020.
Why Does The Oklahoma Governor Turn to Federal Government to Shutdown Tribal Casinos?
The Tribal Casinos In Oklahoma continue to operate. Yet, Stitt insists they are doing so illegally due to the Jan. 1 expiration. The main issue is the governor’s desire to renegotiate the terms of the existing compacts. He is seeking higher exclusivity fees from the tribes. They currently pay anywhere from four to 10 percent to operate a Class III gaming license in the state.Also, we covered this story in our latest gambling news podcast video.
The Class III designation allows gaming on slot machines, roulette and craps. Last Wednesday, Stitt filed his official response to the Tribes’ latest lawsuit. The official response was a 41-page document. It included the following quote:
“Continuing to conduct Class III electronic gaming in the absence of valid Gaming Compacts with Oklahoma has resulted, is resulting and will continue to result in unjust enrichment to the Tribes. Unjust enrichment will continue unless and until a new gaming compact is entered into by and between the Tribes and Oklahoma.”
The state just received close to $150 million last year just for exclusivity fees. These were paid directly by the tribes.
The legal response to the issue continued with: “Without an injunction, Oklahoma, as a State of the United States of America, will suffer irreparable harm. Because its sovereignty is not being recognized by the Tribes, who continue to unlawfully conduct Class III gaming in the absence of valid and existing gaming compacts.
Stitt wants the federal court to rule that the existing compacts did not automatically renew. He also wants the court to declare that the casinos are operating in violation of federal and state law. He is also seeking an injunction to prevent the tribes from operating the casinos.
Stephen Greetham is the Chickasaw Nation senior counsel. His official response was quoted as follows:
“We are glad Gov. Stitt has not sought to delay the proceedings. We are reviewing the pleading his lawyers filed on his behalf. And look forward to learning what legal basis he will claim to justify the uncertainty he has endeavored to create. Going forward, we look forward to working with the court and obtaining a final resolution.”
This tribe is one of three in the state involved with the suit. The other two parties named are the Choctaw and Cherokee tribes. The Muscogee Creek Nation appears to be willing to join the cause. The response from the governor was filed by the following two law firms, which are Lytle, Soule & Felty, and Ryan Whaley. Furthermore, both companies are located in Oklahoma City.
• Source: Gov. Stitt asks federal court to shut down Oklahoma tribes’ Class III casino gaming From Tulsaworld.com On January 23, 2020.