Oklahoma Might Not Expand Its Gaming Sector Soon

The ongoing dispute between Indian Country and Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt has divided the state’s leaders. The House and Senate leadership requested Attorney General Gentner Drummond to represent Oklahoma in a suit against the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI).

Drummond accepted the request and will seek to replace Stitt’s attorney in a lawsuit stating that the DOI illegally approved several gaming agreements between two Native tribes and Stitt in 2020.

Two Florida pari-mutuels filed a case against the DOI for letting a compact’s deadline expire and allowing it to be legal even though it didn’t sign it. This puts sports gambling’s future in Florida at risk.

Oklahoma’s compacts constitute how it should spend gaming revenue and its possibility to legalize extra casino games and sports betting.

These issues have gradually strained the Indian Country’s relationship with the governor. Also, there are concerns about whether he surpassed his mandate.

The state has 39 federally recognized tribes, the second-highest in the country after California. Its Native tribes run 130 casinos. Even so, the two states banned sports gambling and have Las Vegas-style gaming venues that generate over $100 million in gaming revenue annually.

More About Oklahoma’s Compacts

Stitt made gaming agreements with two Native tribes in 2020, allowing them to provide sports gambling and pay a 1.1 percent state tax from sports wagers. Still, the compacts allowed them to increase their casino games and focused on several crucial tribal issues like tobacco sales, fishing and hunting licenses.

Charles McCall, Oklahoma House Speaker, and Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat filed a case in the Oklahoma Supreme Court accusing Stitt of overstepping his mandate while negotiating compacts that the Legislature hadn’t approved. The Supreme Court ruled that the agreements were invalid.

Citizen Potawatomi, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and the Cherokee Nations filed a lawsuit in federal court after the Supreme Court’s ruling blaming the DOI for approving the gaming agreements. Stitt contracted a counsel, but Drummond wants to represent him and Oklahoma.

The McAlester New-Capital reported that Drummond has been criticizing Stitt for his agreements with the state’s Native tribes. Yet, both of them are Republican leaders, and they agree on other issues. Still, Stitt must adhere to the state law, and Drummond is determined to defend the constitution.

Governor Stitt’s Actions’ Impact

Stitt’s compacts have caused division among Oklahoma’s Native tribes. Generally, such tribes make compacts on their own after addressing different issues. But, the other tribes view Stitt’s move to broker gaming discussions between the two small Native tribes as a violation of their sovereignty.

Twenty tribes are backing Oklahoma’s legislators. Yet, the governor and Legislature have the mandate to negotiate compacts with Native tribes.

The Indian Country tried to unseat Stitt in the 2022 elections but failed. He vetoed several contract extensions in the 2023 legislative session, and the Legislature approved most of the tribal bills. So, Oklahoma players will wait longer for it to expand gaming.

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