Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt (pictured) has reportedly announced that he is to take over negotiations between the state and its 35 casino-operating tribes concerning the long-running dispute over gaming compacts.
According to a Tuesday report from the Associated Press news service published by US News and World Report, the 46-year-old revealed that he also intends to employ an out-of-state legal team to help his administration resolve the ongoing quarrel.
Oklahoma is reportedly home to approximately 130 tribal gambling establishments operated under 15-year gaming compacts that are due to expire from the first day of next month. These arrangements purportedly also contain so-called ‘exclusivity fees’ that see aboriginal venues agree to hand over between 4% and 10% of their gaming revenues so as to receive a promise from the state that it will not license commercial casinos.
However, this seeming over-abundance of tribal casinos in Oklahoma has not led to a tax windfall as ‘The Sooner State’ reportedly managed to collect only about $139 million via ‘exclusivity fees’ last year. This situation purportedly led Stitt to suggest in July that he would like to renegotiate these expiring tribal deals complete with a higher range of levies.
The Associated Press reported that this proposition immediately angered many of Oklahoma’s casino-operating tribes, who countered by claiming that their deals do not need to be renegotiated as they will simply roll over following the January 1 deadline. This difference of opinion purportedly led to a standoff that is showing no signs of being resolved despite the erstwhile efforts of previous lead negotiator, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter.
Stitt only assumed office in January and reportedly moreover detailed on Tuesday that he intends to offer the tribes a temporary gaming compact extension so that they can continue to operate while negotiations on the larger disagreement progress.
The Republican Governor reportedly declared…
“The language in this extension will allow each side who signs on to the extension to retain their legal positions. I want business to continue as usual while we resolve this dispute.”
In response, some tribal leaders have reportedly explained that they are willing to enter into negotiations regarding new gaming compacts but are first waiting for Stitt to acknowledge that their existing agreements do, in fact, contain automatic rollover provisions.
Matt Morgan, Chairman for the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association, reportedly expressed disappointment at Stitt’s actions and told the Associated Press that he has not yet seen any of the proposed extension language.
Morgan reportedly stated…
“Tribal leadership has been clear from the beginning; if he acknowledges auto-renewal, we’ll sit down and negotiate with him. But clearly he does not want to do that.”