OKLAHOMA CITY — For the second consecutive week, Gov. Kevin Stitt lost a lawsuit over Oklahoma’s gaming compacts.
Citing the actions of the Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission, Judge Timothy DeGuisti ruled Tuesday morning that the model tribal gaming compact used by more than 30 Oklahoma tribes automatically renewed on Jan. 1.
“There is no question that STGA [state-tribal gaming compact] delegated to OHRC, an executive agency, the power to implement its provisions and to authorize organizational licensees (horse race tracks) to conduct electronic gaming if they meet statutory and regulatory requirements,” DeGuisti wrote. “There is also no question that OHRC took these governmental actions following the effective dates of the compacts. Indeed, OHRC issued such licenses to two horse racetracks in October 2019 for the year 2020. No more was required for the compacts to automatically renew on Jan. 1, 2020, for a successive 15-year term.”
Seeking higher exclusivity fees from the 30-plus gaming tribes across Oklahoma, Gov. Stitt had publicly maintained that the compacts expired on New Year’s Eve and that any Class III gaming conducted after that date, such as craps and roulette, was illegal. Under the model compact, the exclusivity fees for Oklahoma’s 131 tribally operated casinos range from 4 to 10%, generating a roughly $1.5 billion payout to the state over the last 15 years.
The Cherokee, Chickasaw and Choctaw nations originally filed suit on New Year’s Eve against Gov. Kevin Stitt in the Western District of Oklahoma, asking for a declaratory judgment that the state-tribal model gaming compact automatically renewed on New Year’s Day. Soon after, they were joined by the Muscogee (Creek), Quapaw, Delaware, Citizen Potawatomi and Seminole nations, plus the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes.
William Norman is the attorney for the Anadarko-based Wichita and Affiliated Tribes. His client still has an additional outstanding complaint against the governor, claiming that the state violated the compacts’ exclusivity provisions by authorizing the Oklahoma lottery and 2015 amendments to the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma’s compact that allow for online gambling.
Norman welcomed the ruling Tuesday morning and said the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes would be evaluating their additional claim in light of DeGuisti’s decision. Written notices regarding that claim and any other remaining loose ends are due by Aug. 7.