Department of the Interior Ratifies New Oklahoma Tribal Gaming Compacts

  • Compacts were with the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians and Kialegee Tribal Town
  • Class III gaming, including table games and slots, is permitted per the terms of the compacts
  • A new progressive tax system for gaming revenue has been introduced
  • Both tribes now have the option to set up a new casino in designated areas
Oklahoma Route 66 sign
The US Department of the Interior has approved two new tribal gaming compacts between the state of Oklahoma and both the Kialegee Tribal Town and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Getting the green light

The US Department of the Interior has given its approval to two new tribal gaming compacts in Oklahoma, signed by the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians (UKB) and the Kialegee Tribal Town (KTT).

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt negotiated and signed the compacts in July, allowing for Class III gaming such as slots and blackjack, but no sports betting. The Department of Interior acknowledged that the state acted in good faith when negotiating the compacts; the resulting revenue will go toward public schools and provide further economic opportunities for the tribes.

a new era of prosperity, opportunity, and partnership for the State and the Tribes.”

Governor Stitt acknowledged the leadership of the two tribes and believes that “Oklahoma is ushering in a new era of prosperity, opportunity, and partnership for the State and the Tribes.” He also believes that these compacts bring a new, modern approach to the issue of state-tribal gaming compacts, moving away from the restrictions of fixed models.

UKB chief Joe Bunch and KTT Mekko Brian Givens both thanked the administration for their efforts in securing these new deals.

Compact specifics

As part of the KTT compact, the slots tax increases to 12% of gross revenue in the initial two years before going up to 13% for sums of up to $300m, 14% for revenue between $300m and $500m, and 15% for revenue above $500m. KTT also has the option to open a casino in Eastern Oklahoma County.

For the UKB compact, there is a 12% gross gaming revenue tax for sums up to $300m, 13% for up to $500m, and 15% for all sums greater than $500m. UKC has the option to open a casino in Logan County as part of the deal. 

As soon as the compacts are published in the Federal Register, the two tribes can begin operating under their terms. The previous compact had the tax rate for Class III games at the 6%.

Strained relations

The relationships between many tribes and Governor Stitt have been under strain for some time. Many tribes believed that the 15-year gaming compacts, signed in 2004, would automatically renew on January 1, 2020. Governor Stitt did not believe that this was the case, however, which led to some tribes taking legal action. In July, a federal judge ruled in favor of the tribes

The governor also signed two gaming compacts with the Comanche Nation and Otoe-Missouria Tribe in April, sparking controversy among other tribes and Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter. 

The two tribes were to be able to offer sports betting in these compacts, but Governor Stitt was ruled to have overstepped his authority in agreeing to them. This was mainly because sports betting is not currently legal in Oklahoma and Governor Stitt can only sign agreements when a given activity is regulated and legal.