July 22, 2020 Tribal

Tribal gaming compacts deemed invalid by Oklahoma Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court of Oklahoma has ruled that the gaming compacts entered by two tribes and signed by Governor Kevin Stitt, are both invalid under state law.

In April, the Comanche Nation and Otoe-Missouria Tribes signed gaming compact agreements with Stitt, that authorized certain forms of Class III gaming, including house-banked card and table games, and sports betting.

There were question marks surrounding the authority the Governor had to sign such deals, with Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter arguing that Stitt didn’t have such power.

That led to the two tribes being removed as members of the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association (OIGA) for the rest of 2020, with the tribes found not conducting business in the best interest of OIGA.

Now, the Supreme Court has voted 7 to 1 to reject the compacts, reinforcing the invalidity of such agreements.

The court said the state cannot be legally bound by the compacts, until the legislature enacts laws to allow the Class III games, thus prohibiting the Governor to negotiate additional revenue from them.

Attorney General Hunter responded to the news, saying: “We applaud today’s ruling and appreciate the court for carefully looking at this and coming to an apt conclusion. We hope this settles and advances the resolution of gaming compact negotiations.”

However, Comanche chairman William Nelson Sr stated the tribe “intend to continue operating under the terms of the compact outside of offering games not currently authorized by state law. Our compact is legal and we are prepared to legally invoke the compact’s severability clause if necessary.”

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