OKLAHOMA CITY — Two Indian gaming experts say recent action by the Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission bolsters the position of the tribes that their gaming compacts with the state will renew automatically.
Gov. Kevin Stitt said earlier this year that the gaming compacts need to be renegotiated. He thinks the state should receive a higher share of profits.
The compacts currently provide from 4% to 10% to the state in exchange for the exclusive right to offer specific casino games. The state’s share amounted to more than $139 million last year.
Stitt said the compacts expire on Jan. 1, 2020. Many tribes disagree, saying they automatically renew.
On Thursday, the Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission approved the final horse track gaming and racing license applications for calendar year 2020, said Joe Lucas, vice chairman.
Steven Greetham, senior counsel for the Chickasaw Nation, said part of the compact says that if horse tracks are conducting or are authorized to conduct electronic gaming on Jan. 1, 2020, then the gaming compacts with the tribes automatically renew.
“After yesterday’s action by the Horse Racing Commission, there is no reasonable argument the state has that the contracts do not renew,” Greetham said.
The compact says that at the time of the Jan. 1, 2020, expiration, if organization licenses or others are authorized to conduct electronic gaming in any form other than pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing pursuant to any government action of the state or court after the effective date of the compact, the compact shall automatically renew.
“The plain language of the compacts references gaming being available at horse tracks on Jan. 1, 2020,” said Matthew Morgan, chairman of the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association. “Yesterday’s Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission action is in line with the plain language. They authorized gaming for calendar year 2020.”
Greetham said the horse racing industry has a $3.4 billion impact on the state and supports 39,000 jobs.
Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter’s office is expected to meet with tribal representatives in Shawnee on Oct. 28 to discuss the compacts, according to a report in The Oklahoman.
Hunter’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the action of the Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission.