Leaders of 29 Oklahoma Indian tribes notified Gov. Kevin Stitt in writing Friday that they believe they’re under no obligation to renegotiate the state’s gaming compacts, but they’ll listen if he has a proposal.
The letter lays out three principles the leaders say they “believe to be true.”
The first, and perhaps most important, is that current gaming compacts will automatically renew Jan. 1.
Stitt contended in a letter July 5 and in an op-ed in the Tulsa World a few days later that the compacts will expire on that date. The implication is that the tribes’ casinos would be shut down unless they agree to renegotiate.
Second, the letter says the present exclusivity fees paid by the tribes to the state should not change. Stitt maintains the fees are too low. The tribes say the current structure has produced far more revenue than expected and are in line with other states.
Third, the tribes said they recognize Stitt’s right to “request” negotiations and “look forward to receiving your proposal.”
Asked for comment, Stitt’s office essentially echoed the statement of two days earlier:
“The governor is meeting with and reaching out to our tribal partners. Conversations are ongoing, and the governor is confident we can come to an agreement that enhances opportunity for the tribes, as sovereign nations and partners, and continues to move Oklahoma forward to the benefit of all 4 million residents.”
Twenty-three tribes agreed to the letter’s general wording during a meeting earlier this week at the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association’s annual convention in Tulsa. Six more apparently joined later.
The letter, dated July 23, the day of the meeting, was released late Friday afternoon through the OIGA.
A few of the signatories, including the Keetowahs and Poncas, do not currently have gaming, and a few tribes with casinos have not signed the letter. That includes the Comanches, the Tonkawas, the Seneca-Cayugas and the Missouria-Otoe.
But the state’s largest tribes, including the Five Civilized Tribes and the Osages, did sign, and the letter indicates that the tribes intend to consider any offer by the state as “a unified body.”
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