Three Indian tribes in Oklahoma have sued Governor Kevin Stitt over the new gaming compact in the state. The new joint lawsuit came from Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Cherokee tribes.
Stitt in a soup again
The lawsuit was filed at the Oklahoma City federal court by the three largest gaming tribes. According to Bill Anoatubby, the Governor of Chickasaw Nation, they have a “solemn duty” to protect the sovereign rights of the tribes and their citizens.
He added that the tribes prefer negotiation instead of a lawsuit. However,
“The federal court is now the only reasonable alternative to bring legal certainty to this issue. We remain hopeful we will continue to have a productive and mutually beneficial relationship with the State of Oklahoma once we have resolved this issue.”
However, the state has already signed eight-month extensions for the casinos of the United Keetoowah and Kialegee Tribal Town.
What does the lawsuit demand?
Stitt had adopted a relatively aggressive stance on tribal casinos. He threatened the tribes to renegotiate their gaming contracts, or he would allow commercial casino operator’s access to the state’s gaming operator. As per existing contracts with the state, the tribes pay 4% to 6% of their slot gross gaming revenue (GGR). They also pay 10% of their table wins. The compacts with the tribes expired on January 1.
The tribes suggest that if they don’t negotiate a new contract with the state, the previous contact will automatically renew for the next 15 years. However, Gov. Stitt suggests that they must reach new terms with the tribe. He wants to impose a 25% tax on gross revenues. The governor said that the tribes’ casino business would be considered unlawful Class III gaming business.
The tribes want the federal judge to give their views on the dilemma. Gary Batton, the chief of Choctaw Nation, said that the governor’s view had created a state of uncertainty in Oklahoma. He suggests that Stitt’s point of view threatens their business partners and employees. According to him, the best option, in this case, is to go for legal action as it could provide more stability and clarity on the issue.
The tribes in Oklahoma operate a number of casinos in the state. They signed gaming compacts for the last time in 2006 and have paid over $1.5 billion in taxes since then. In 2019, the state was expecting a $148 million payment from the tribes.