SHAWNEE — State and tribal leaders held a historic meeting Monday to discuss the future of the multimillion-dollar gaming compacts.
But nothing appeared to be resolved.
The meeting was held at the Grand Casino, owned by the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, just outside of Shawnee.
About 200 tribal leaders and their representatives met with Attorney General Mike Hunter, who is representing the state.
About 31 of the 35 tribes involved in gaming were present.
“We had a very positive and constructive conversation today with tribal leaders,” Hunter said. “We are going to convene again in the very near future. Not to be trite, but you have to walk before you can run.”
The attorney general said he could not provide specifics about Monday’s discussions.
Tribal leaders began meeting just before 9 a.m. Hunter arrived around 1 p.m. He talked to reporters shortly before 4 p.m., saying the state began a conversation with tribes to find a path forward on the future of the state’s tribal gaming compacts.
Gov. Kevin Stitt has said the fees the tribes pay to the state for exclusive gaming rights are too low. Those rates range from 4% to 10%.
In fiscal year 2018, Oklahoma collected nearly $139 million in tribal gaming exclusivity fees, according to a report from the state’s Office of Management and Enterprise Services. That was a 3.48% increase over fiscal 2017.
Stitt did not attend the meeting, but has met with various tribes.
His senior adviser, Donelle Harder, and Chief of Staff Michael Junk were present.
Some tribes have said the fees should not be raised, given the amount of dollars the state gets in addition to other contributions the tribes make. They also point to the jobs they have created.
A major sticking point has been duration of the existing compacts.
Stitt believes they expire on Jan. 1, 2020, while the tribes believe the compacts automatically renew.
That issue wasn’t resolved when the meeting ended.
“It is clear the state has a major dispute over automatic renewal,” said Matthew Morgan, chairman of the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association. “Tribal leaders will take time to assess today’s discussion with Attorney General Hunter. Nothing is more important to the tribes than resolving the automatic renewal and we are committed to continued dialogue.”
Hunter said the sides are working on a process to resolve the dispute.
“We are hopeful of getting resolution with respect to that issue as well as sitting down and negotiating generally on the compact,” Hunter said. “Today was important because today was an opportunity to discuss the state’s position.”
Adding sports betting and online gaming may have some appeal to tribes.
The state recently added ball-and-dice games to the list of approved gaming in an effort to raise additional revenue for its coffers.
“It is important for the tribes and the state that this part of our economy remains competitive and as successful as it has been in the past,” Hunter said.
Tribal gaming is a $4 billion-plus industry that generates more than $130 million for the state, Hunter said.
“The stakes are very significant here,” Hunter said.
Stitt issued a statement after the meeting praising the attorney general’s role as the state’s lead negotiator in the “government-to-government discussion.”
“When we are all working together, I am confident the state and Oklahoma’s 39 tribes can achieve a win-win for all 4 million Oklahomans,” the governor said.