Gambling Legislation

Oklahoma lawmakers block tribal gaming compact

Oklahoma lawmakers block tribal gaming compact

The decision means a new round of bidding to bring a casino to the state

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Sitt suffered another setback in his ongoing attempts to modify the state’s tribal gaming laws. On Wednesday, members of the Joint Committee on State Tribal Relations voiced concerns that the new gaming compacts would lead to casino expansion in Oklahoma before the agreements were voted down.

Trevor Pemberton, a representative of the Governor, attended the meeting and debated that the new agreements would greatly increase state tax revenue generated from casino gaming when compared to an earlier compact.

Gov. Sitt settled the compacts with the Kialegee Tribal Town and United Keetoowah Band in 2020 as part of a bigger controversial renegotiation. They would permit tribes to operate sports betting, illegal elsewhere in the state, and allow them to open new casinos in Oklahoma.

The committee’s choice was disappointing to the tribes, who hoped the new casinos would boost the economies of their communities.

“We are disappointed that we didn’t get to tell our side of the story,” said United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians Chief Joe Bunch, who attended the meeting, according to local news website NonDoc. “Today’s defeat, it hurt. It hurts big, particularly not to have the opportunity to discuss these issues.”

Sitt has been pushing the new compacts as an attempt to give smaller tribes an opportunity to open casinos, an option only available to the state’s biggest tribes.

The compacts were among four Sitt negotiated in 2020, two of which were rejected by the committee on Wednesday. They’ve been dismissed by the Oklahoma Supreme Court, with related litigation ongoing in the District of Columbia US District Court.

The Cherokee, Citizen Potawatomi, Chickasaw, and Choctaw nations initially filed the case against the US Department of the Interior, the agency that regulates federal tribal gaming, and other litigants.

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