An ongoing battle between Wichita and Affiliated Tribes (WAT) and state government remains in the news. The latest issue has to do with Oklahoma’s state lottery. WAT believes they should be exempt from any paying casino revenue-share payments. This pertains to the state lottery breaking the terms of their compacts with the state government.
WAT contends that the lottery violates tribal gaming exclusivity. The matter will now go the court. Earlier this month, a lawsuit was filed in federal court. The suit accuses the state of breaching its compact with tribal operators. The lottery is offering online and mobile-based second-chance promotions on losing tickets.
Oklahoma Tribes and Government Gaming Conflicts Continue
The lawsuit also contends that lottery players can participate in these promotions while located on sovereign tribal territories. This infringes on the tribes’ exclusive right to offer gaming on their lands.
As owners of Sugar Creek Casino in Hinton, WAT is seeking damages. They also want the federal court’s permission to cease making any revenue payments to Oklahoma.
This is just the latest issue between tribal casinos and the state’s governor Kevin Stitt. He has been trying to get the tribes to renegotiate the compact signed in 2004. That compact includes 35 federally recognized tribal groups.
Stitt is looking for a higher percentage of casino revenue-share for the state. The current payments are between four and 10 percent depending on the actual game. The casinos offer slots and table games. Last year’s payments totaled $150 million. The money primarily supports education.
The tribes argue that the current compact automatically rolled over into 2020. The governor believes they expired on Jan. 1, 2020. The most powerful tribes joined forces and sued the governor.
A federal judge ordered both sides to engage in mediation efforts first. Those proceedings have been delayed due to the current coronavirus outbreak.
In this latest court filing, WAT is also looking for the courts to rule in their favor on the compacts. They are stating that the rollover was automatic. They are taking things one step further by eliminating any payments to the state.
Most of the tribes are content with the current payment rates on casino revenue. WAT is looking to dispute the current arrangement in light of added state lottery promotions that violate the compact.
A previous case in California might prove their point. There was a dispute between the lipay Nation of Santa Ysabel and the state government over online bingo. The tribe was offering online play. Both the state and federal government ruled against their stance this was legal gambling. The ruling stated:
“That a bet must be legal both where it is initiated and where it is received.”
WAT is simply reversing the same situation to question the legality of the Oklahoma state lottery. Terri Parton is the President of the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes. The stance favors the financial support of education. Yet, WAT believes that compact violations allows the tribes to direct that support to local schools.