At the same conference, Stitt unveiled another threat. Tribes that continue to offer Class III games on January 1, 2020, will be in violation of federal law, he said. “Are they going to be operating illegally Class III games?” Stitt said in Oklahoma City, the state capital. “That brings a whole host of issues with vendors.” Stitt's statements escalate a dispute that started just a few months ago. Tribes continue to assert that their compacts contain a provision that allows them to keep operating past a December 31 deadline if a new agreement can't be reached. “The fact is our compacts renew and that our gaming will be as lawful in January 2020 as it is in December 2019,” Stephen Greetham, the senior counsel for the Chickasaw Nation, whose Indian gaming operation is the largest in the state, told The Tulsa World. “Governor Stitt’s position is not supported by law, logic or the compact’s plain language. The tribal view is supported by Ross Swimmer, a Republican and Cherokee citizen who ran the Bureau of Indian Affairs during a critical time. He served in Ronald Reagan's Republican administration when the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act was being debated and eventually became law. "The compacts are a continuing agreement, they do not terminate, and there is no need for either party to spend large sums of money to defend that position in court," Swimmer said in a letter published by The Tulsa World. "The governor needs to come to the table, state his case and not waste this opportunity."
Almost all of the 39 tribal nations in Oklahoma are based in rural areas. Because it is their permanent home too, they are uniquely invested in the prosperity of those communities. #StrongTribes #StrongOklahoma pic.twitter.com/GXgnOSjZAy— United For Oklahoma (@UnitedForOK) December 10, 2019
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" and 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. Bringing in non-Indian operators would violate the pledge, a situation that has led to court battles elsewhere. Such provisions are common in Class III gaming compacts even though revenue sharing is not explicitly authorized by IGRA, which became law in 1988. In reviewing agreements, the BIA 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.
Governor Kevin Stitt gives an update on negotiations on Gaming Compacts (KOKH December 11, 2019)
Stitt: Commercial casinos interested if deal with tribes not renewed (CNHI News Oklahoma December 9, 2019)
Tribes will be operating Class III games illegally on Jan. 1 if no compact deal is reached, Gov. Kevin Stitt says (The Tulsa World December 5, 2019)
Five Tribes say they're waiting for an offer from governor on gaming compacts (The Tulsa World November 25, 2019)
Tribes and state of Oklahoma remain far apart when it comes to gaming (October 29, 2019)
Oklahoma turns to private law firm for help with tribal gaming compacts (September 16, 2019)
Editorial: Oklahoma governor right to demand more revenues from tribes (September 3, 2019)
Bill John Baker: Tribal governments ensure Oklahoma’s success (July 25, 2019)
Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribal Tribune: Battle brews over gaming compacts (July 15, 2019)
Kimberly Teehee: The strength of Oklahoma lies in its people (July 11, 2019)