Okla. Gov. digs in on gambling showdown with tribes

Published: Nov. 14, 2019 at 10:29 PM CST
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Oklahoma’s new Republican governor is doubling down on his position that the state’s gambling compacts with Indian tribes expire at the end of the year, setting up a potential legal showdown with some of the state’s most powerful entities.

Gov. Kevin Stitt was in Atoka Thursday night supporting local candidate and Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, Charles McCall., who is up for re-election to represent his district in Atoka.

Before making his way to the event in Atoka, Stitt was at a press conference in Oklahoma City, talking about one of the biggest issues in the state: the gaming compact with Indian tribes.

Stitt said Thursday communications with the tribes have broken down and he wanted to present his case to the Oklahoma people.

Stitt said he wants to bring in money for the state, but didn't say how much more money he wants to get out of the tribes. only suggesting that the state’s current rate of between 4% and 10% of tribal gambling revenue should be larger.

He said there will be 'extreme uncertainty' if there is not a new compact by next year. The tribes collectively pay Oklahoma about $140 million a year, for the exclusive right to operate casinos in the state.

The tribes say they don't want higher rates, but instead they want more gambling options, like sports betting.

Stitt said Thursday at the campaign rally that he's ready to negotiate.

"We really want to get a fair deal for the casino industry and for the state of Oklahoma" said Stitt.

The governor said the gaming compact with the tribes will expire at the end of this year, something that the tribes dispute.

The tribes maintain it automatically renews for another 15 years if no agreement is reached.

Tribal leaders have said they’re willing to renegotiate the rates, but not until Stitt acknowledges the compacts automatically renew if a deal can’t be reached.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.