The Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association (OIGA) has voted to suspend two of its members after they signed new gaming compacts to offer Class III games, including sports betting, in the US state.
The Otoe-Missouria Tribe and the Comanche Nation have had their membership put on hold, following a vote by the OIGA board and membership to amend its bylaws to allow the suspension.
Under the amendment, the OIGA may now temporarily remove a member until the end of a calendar year if it is ruled that the tribe’s conduct is not in the best interest of the organization. After the suspension ends, the tribe can then seek reinstatement as a member, subject to a vote by the board.
“This was a difficult decision to make, but it was the correct one,” OIGA chairman Matthew Morgan said. “The OIGA works best when its membership can speak frankly and with the trust that all members are working together to support our industry as a whole.”
Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed the gaming compacts with the two tribes in April, permitting them to offer Class III games. The compacts each last for 15 years but must be ratified by the US Department of the Interior before coming into effect.
At the time, the OIGA raised concerns over the compacts, saying the agreement was based on an erroneous claim of “unilateral state authority”, and would exacerbate an ongoing dispute between the tribes and Governor Stitt.
Stitt had claimed all tribal compacts expired in January this year, whereas the tribes vehemently opposed his stance. After the tribes sued, a federal judge allowed the parties until May 31 to reach a compromise.
Shortly after the new compacts were signed, the Attorney General of Oklahoma Mike Hunter also cast doubts over the agreements. Hunter warned that Stitt did not have the authority to negotiate agreements for products not covered by the state’s tribal gaming regulations.
Oklahoma’s State-Tribal Gaming Act only allows state officials to agree compacts for products not prohibited under state law. The Act specifically prohibits slot machines, house-banked card games, house-banked table games involving dice or roulette wheels and “games where winners are determined by the outcome of a sporting contest”.
Last week, Hunter issued an official opinion on the matter, stating that Governor Stitt lacked authority to agree compacts with the tribes that authorize gaming activity prohibited by state law. He requested Secretary of the Interior David Berhardt refuse to ratify the agreements.
Hunter said that not only do the compacts deviate from the Act, but also fail to comply with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, a federal act that only permits compacts to be brokered by those with the authority to enter such an agreement.