Oklahoma’s State-Tribal Gaming Compact

The state-tribal gaming agreement is a success story for all Oklahomans, and it has far exceeded estimates of its benefits to the state.

Posted by United For Oklahoma on Tuesday, December 3, 2019
United for Oklahoma: Oklahoma’s State-Tribal Gaming Compact

Deadline approaches in tribal gaming compact dispute in Oklahoma

Do Oklahoma's Class III gaming compacts expire at the end of the month? Tribes might soon find out.

Most of the compacts contain a deadline of January 1, 2020. But tribes and Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) disagree on what that means.

The tribes believe the compacts automatically renew on that date if a new agreement isn't reached. They plan to continue operating their facilities in the new year.

Stitt, who is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, takes a different view. He thinks the agreements expire on January 1, a view that one key tribal leader says poses an “intolerable risk of injury” to his people's operation, The Tulsa World reported.

“Accordingly, we reserve our right to take legal action, if necessary, to protect the Chickasaw Nation’s legal and sovereign rights as well as the material interests of our citizens who rely on government programs and services supported by our gaming operation revenues,” Governor Bill Anoatubby of the Chickasaw Nation said in a letter to the Department of the Interior, The World reported.

The letter was sent to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, the paper reported. A copy hasn't been released so it's not clear whether Anoatubby is asking the Trump administration to take any action on behalf of his tribe, which operates more casinos in Oklahoma than any other Indian nation.

"The language is the compact is clear and the compact essentially has automatically renewed," Kevin Washburn, a Chickasaw citizen who served as the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs during the latter years of the Obama administration, said in a video posted by United For Oklahoma, a tribally-led organization.

Every other tribe with a casino has refused to agree to Stitt's call to renegotiate the compacts unless he concedes to their view on the January 1 issue. He is using the deadline to push for tribes to share more gaming revenues with the state.

Since 2004, when voters approved Class III gaming, tribes have paid $1.28 billion to the state, according to the Oklahoma Gaming Compliance Unit's most recent report. The money is derived from a percentage of electronic gaming revenue, as well as table game revenue.

"For the first $10 million in revenue, tribes pay 4 percent to the state; for the next $10 million, the payment is 5 percent; and for revenues more than $20 million, the payment is 6 percent. Tribes pay 10 percent of the monthly net win from table games," the report reads.

The state defines such payments to be "exclusivity fees." The tribes share revenues based on the promise that they are the exclusive operators of Class III games like slot machines, as well as table games like blackjack and poker.

Such provisions are common in Class III gaming compacts even though revenue sharing is not explicitly authorized by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act The Bureau of Indian Affairs, which is part of the Department of the Interior, looks to see whether a state has promised tribes something "meaningful" in return, such as exclusivity.

Revenue sharing rates range from a low of 0 percent to a high of 25 percent, according to a Government Accountability Office report from 2015. Although Stitt has pointed to rates on the higher end of the scale, the majority of the compacts examined by the GAO at the time fell in the same range as Oklahoma's current agreement -- somewhere between 10 percent and 14.9 percent, and below.

Read More on the Story
Chickasaw Nation reaches out to federal agency on standoff with state over tribal gaming compacts (The Tulsa World December 4, 2019)

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