The new governor of Oklahoma talked about gambling contracts with Indian tribes expiring this year in the latest press conference. Republican Gov. Kevit Stitt informed the state that his talks with the Indian tribes over a new gambling policy broke down last month.
Uncertainty rules the world
According to Stitt,
“The fact of the matter is they have refused to communicate with me. This is going to cause extreme uncertainty if we don’t have a new compact before Jan. 1, 2020.”
The two parties have been unable to reach an agreement about the automatic renewal of the 15-year contract. According to the governor, the tribal gambling revenue of the state, which is in the range of 4% and 10% should be much higher. The leaders of the tribes have agreed to discuss the new gambling rates but want Stitt to auto-renew their contracts if they can’t reach a deal on time.
According to Stephen Greetham, senior attorney for one of the tribes, Chickasaw Nation, the tribes have a unified point of view that the contracts should auto-renew and they must be allowed to operate in the state. Chickasaw is one of the most powerful Indian tribes in the state. Greetham said that the governor would have to see the tribes in court if he wants to force the issue. He said that the governor would have to get court orders to shut down the casinos. If not, they will continue running their operations and paying their designate revenue-share payments to the state just like the past 15 years.
Oklahoma’s thriving casino scene
Gambling is a thriving industry in the state, controlled by Indian tribes that financially and politically powerful. The state voters approved gambling expansion in 2004 after which they now have 130 casinos in operation.
According to the current compact with the state, the tribes pay an “exclusivity fee” to Oklahoma in return for exclusive casino operating rights. Last year, this fee brought in $139 million in revenue to the state. A significant portion of this revenue goes towards funding education. The tribes brought in $2.3 billion in revenue via the approved games.