OKLAHOMA CITY — Several tribes have told Gov. Kevin Stitt that he must first recognize that gaming compacts renew automatically before negotiations to change them can begin, according to documents released Thursday.

Tribal representatives also said they are still waiting on a proposal from Stitt on rates paid to the state for gaming exclusivity.

Stitt, in an Aug. 13 letter to tribes, suggested tabling the disagreement over compact renewal in an effort to kickstart negotiations. He suggested a Sept. 3 meeting or a later mutually agreeable date.

The state’s tribes with gaming ventures believe that the gaming compacts with the state, in place for 15 years, automatically renew. Stitt thinks they expire Jan. 1.

The state receives 4% to 10% of proceeds from tribal gaming in exchange for granting the right to have casinos exclusively to the tribes. Stitt says the rates are low. In 2017, the state received nearly $134 million in tribal gaming exclusivity fees.

Tribal representatives gathered last week at the Grand Casino of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation in Shawnee and crafted a resolution in response to Stitt’s Aug. 13 letter.

About three dozen tribes expressed support for the resolution that says they can’t table the renewal issue, adding that it would be inappropriate to move forward with discussing new proposals until the renewal issue is resolved.

A necessary step would be for the state to acknowledge the automatic renewal, the resolution says.

It also says Stitt has not made any substantial proposal concerning fees and exclusivity.

The tribes would consider a proposal should the state acknowledge the automatic renewal, the resolution says.

“We recognize that Gov. Stitt has the right under the present gaming compact to request a renegotiation of rates paid under the gaming compact; however, a month has passed, and our request for a proposal from Gov. Stitt has gone unanswered,” Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association Chairman Matthew L. Morgan said.

Stitt Communications Director Baylee Lakey said the Attorney General’s Office would coordinate any meetings between the tribes and the governor.

“As for the letter, the governor believes strongly that if everyone can come to the table together to begin negotiations, we can achieve a win-win for both the tribes and all 4 million Oklahomans,” Lakey said.

In his Aug. 13 letter to tribes, Stitt said Attorney General Mike Hunter and a designee from each legislative chamber would be involved in negotiations.

In a statement Thursday, a spokesman for Hunter said the Attorney General’s Office was working to secure a date and place “to begin the conversation on tribal compacts.”

“The attorney general and the governor look forward to a mutually constructive and beneficial dialogue with tribal leadership,” Communications Director Alex Gerszewski said.

“As with all negotiations, Attorney General Hunter believes they are most successful when we proceed in a manner that respects their dynamic and delicate nature. Therefore, there will be no further comment on the negotiations from the Attorney General’s Office or the Governor’s Office until further notice.”

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Barbara Hoberock

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