Four Oklahoma Tribes Sue State Over Two Gaming Compacts

  • Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Citizen Potawatomie Nations tribes filed lawsuit
  • It asks federal court to revoke gambling compacts Gov. Stitt agreed with two other tribes
  • State Supreme Court already ruled invalid the deals with Comanche Nation, Otoe-Missouira
  • A federal judge has also concluded that Oklahoma compacts automatically renewed on January 1, 2020, voiding Stitt's claim that they had expired
flag of state of Oklahoma against blue sky and sun backdrop
Four Oklahoma tribes have filed a lawsuit requesting a federal court to void gambling compacts Gov. Stitt agreed with two other tribes. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

US Interior Department said to have violated federal law

The Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Citizen Potawatomie Nations tribes have asked a federal court to revoke gambling compacts with two other tribes – already ruled invalid by the Oklahoma State Supreme Court.

The four Oklahoma American Indian tribes filed the lawsuit on Friday in the US District Court in Washington, DC. The suit calls for a proclamation that the US Department of the Interior breached federal statutes by permitting the compacts Governor Kevin Stitt signed with the Comanche Nation and the Otoe-Missouira tribe to become valid under federal law.

Oklahoma Supreme Court has declared the compacts void

Even though the Oklahoma Supreme Court has declared the compacts void, their “validity under federal law must also be addressed to avoid damage to the integrity” of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), the tribes’ attorneys said. “The Tribes filed this suit to protect IGRA’s established framework and the Tribal operations conducted under it,” their statement added.

Gov. Stitt’s actions questioned

While stating that the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association (OIGA) supported the four tribes’ endeavors, chairman Matthew Morgan highlighted that Gov. Stitt did not have legal right to agree gaming compacts with the Comanche Nation and the Otoe-Missouira tribes. He added:

It is sad that Governor Stitt has placed the tribal governments in this position.”

On April 21, the Comanche Nation and the Otoe-Missouria Tribe broke ranks to sign new gaming contracts with Stitt. The agreements allowed the two tribes to offer sports betting and house-banked card and table games in Oklahoma. The US Department of the Interior green-lighted the compacts in June after a 45-day review period.

Following federal approval, Republican state Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat and Republican House Speaker Charles McCall filed a lawsuit against Stitt. The Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down the compacts on July 21, ruling that the governor had overstepped his authority by including sports wagering in the agreements.

The two Republicans are also out to void another two compacts that Stitt, a fellow party member, agreed with the Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians and Kialegee Tribal Town at the beginning of July. According to The Oklahoman, Stitt’s attorneys argue that these deals are valid as they exclude sports betting and house-banked card and table games.

Federal judge settles compact expiration dispute

A federal judge ruled on July 28 that Oklahoma’s tribal gambling compacts signed 15 years ago automatically renewed on January 1, 2020. Stitt had argued that the agreements had expired, and that he was seeking to arrange new deals in order for the Sooner State to get a larger cut of casino gaming revenue.

The court ruling brings a months-long dispute between Stitt and three Native American tribes to a close. The case saw the Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Cherokee tribes file a lawsuit on December 31, 2019 arguing for the automatic renewal of their state gaming compacts.