Judge rules gaming compacts renewed beginning Jan. 1, 2020

The Cherokee Nation Chief said he is pleased with Tuesday’s ruling from a federal judge who sided with Oklahoma tribes that gaming compacts with the state renewed on Jan. 1 for another 15-year-term.

According to the Oklahoma Supreme Court Gov. Kevin Stitt “exceeded his authority” when he signed gaming compacts with the Comanche Nation and Otoe-Missouri Tribe that included provisions for sports betting, the Chief U.S. District Judge Timothy D. DeGiusti ruled.

“The tribal gaming compacts Gov. Stitt entered into with the Comanche Nation and Otoe-Missouria Tribes are invalid under Oklahoma law,” the court said.

“The state of Oklahoma is not and cannot be legally bound by those compacts until such time as the Legislature enacts laws to allow the specific Class III gaming at issue, and in turn, allowing the governor to negotiate additional revenue.”

Although he was glad to hear the news, the ruling came as no surprise to Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, who included a portion of the ruling on his Facebook page Tuesday.

“The Cherokee Nation is pleased with today’s ruling which affirms what our tribal nations have known from the beginning, that our gaming compacts with the state of Oklahoma renewed on Jan. 1 for another 15 years,” Hoskin said.

“Tribal gaming in this state will continue to be strong, not only for tribes, but for all of Oklahoma, contributing vital education dollars into our public schools and bolstering health care, roads and communities. Everything in our compact now remains the same, and we hope we can move forward and build a relationship built on respect with Gov. Stitt in the future.”

The Cherokee, Chickasaw and Choctaw nations filed a federal lawsuit on Dec. 31 seeking a judicial declaration that the gaming compact with the state renewed on Jan. 1. The Citizen Nation Potawatomi, Muscogee Creek Nation, Quapaw Nation, Delaware, Seminole, Wichita and affiliated tribes also intervened in the case.

The court said Stitt “does have” the legal authority to negotiate gaming compacts but that authority has limits.

“The governor must negotiate the compacts within the bounds of the laws enacted by the Legislature including the State-Tribal Gaming Act, the Court said.

Praising the ruling, Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat and House Speaker Charles McCall, Republicans, sued the governor saying he can not offer the tribes a type of gaming that lawmakers have not legalized.

In a written statement, Stitt said “The Supreme Court decision highlights an apparent conflict between the federal law and our state laws. Together with the McGirt decision, it’s clear that the state has significant work to do in partnership with the tribes to resolve these matters.”

The McGirt decision was a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that effectively restored reservation status to much of Eastern Oklahoma, raising numerous legal issues.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled on July 21 that the new gaming compacts signed by the state and the Comanche Nation and the Otoe-Missouria Tribe are invalid under state law. The Court ruled that the governor exceeded his authority in entering into the compacts which would have allowed sports betting currently not legal in Oklahoma, the court stated.

Reports indicate the governor’s office has spent more than $1.5 million in legal fees over the tribal gaming compacts with expectations of additional costs.

Sequoyah County Times

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