Gambling Legislation

Oklahoma governor accused of using citizen fund for gaming legislation disputes

Ongoing disputes over tribal gaming legislation are draining Oklahoma accounts

Payment records show that nearly $2 million in state funds paid from Oklahoma tribal gaming operations was used to pay lawyers representing Gov. Kevin Stitt in his legal battles against the tribes. The funds came from annual fees paid by tribes to the state to regulate gaming in Oklahoma.

Attorney General Gentner Drummond is currently investigating whether the funds were misused to pay for legal counsel for Gov. Kevin Stitt in defense of several lawsuits. Over $1.9 million in gaming compliance program funds were used to hire outside law firms to represent Stitt during the previous three years. The amount comes from state payment records, which The Frontier reviewed.

Drummond stated in a letter to the Governor on July 25 that the cost to defend that lawsuit was squandering state funds and damaging the state’s relationship with local Tribes. Chairman of the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association, Matt Morgan, said the funds can be used for litigation in certain circumstances.

“Because that’s a contract between the tribe and the state, the tribes could have a cause of action against the state now for potential misuse of those funds,” said attorney Scott Meacham, who formerly worked under Gov. Brad Henry.

A spokeswoman for Stitt, Abegail Cave, said, “Use of the funds is not restricted, and to the extent anyone were to stretch to argue a restriction should be read into the compact, current and historic usage would still be appropriate.”

Created after Oklahoma voters approved Class III gaming in 2004, the state gaming compliance program requires that Tribes with state gaming compacts pay a one-time $50,000 fee into the compliance fund and a $35,000 annual fee. Tribes also must pay gaming exclusivity fees to fund government education and mental health programs.

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