The controversial tribal gaming compacts that give two Oklahoma tribes rights to offer sports betting in the state have been approved by the US Department of the Interior (DOI), according to state Governor Kevin Stitt.
The Class III gaming compacts, which were struck with the Otoe-Missouri Tribe and the Comanche Nation in April, allowed each operator to offer betting, poker, roulette, slot machines, and blackjack at their gaming facilities.
Stitt said he was “extremely pleased” that the compacts have been approved by the DOI.
“I appreciate and respect the thoughtful leadership of [Otoe-Missouri] Chairman Shotton and [Comanche Nation] Chairman Nelson who worked hard to secure fair terms for their citizens, and whose contributions throughout the negotiations ensured a more level playing field and modernized gaming market in Oklahoma,” Stitt said.
“With these new gaming compacts, Oklahoma is ushering in a new era of prosperity, opportunity, and partnership for the state and the Tribes.”
The tribes will now be able to roll out the new products once the compacts are published in the US government’s Federal Register .
However, there has been significant opposition to the agreements, both from the state legislature and from other tribal operators.
Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter has issued a formal opinion arguing that Stitt did not have the powers to broker the agreements.
He pointed out that the State-Tribal Gaming Act only permits officials to agree compacts for products not prohibited under state law. That act expressly prohibits slots, house-banked games, and games in which “winners are determined by the outcome of a sporting contest”, which according to Hunter makes the new compacts invalid.
This in turn meant they failed to comply with the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, he added.
The tribal reaction has been equally stringent, with the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association (OIGA) initially attacking the compacts as based on a false notion of “unilateral state authority”. The state’s tribal operators are already embroiled in a dispute with Stitt over the validity of their existing compacts, with the Governor of the opinion that these expired in January 2020. The tribes, on the other hand, believe they automatically renewed.
The OIGA ultimately took the step of suspending the Otoe-Missouria and Comanche Nation’s membership until the end of the year, changing its bylaws to facilitate the suspension.