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Oklahoma Governor signs new gaming compacts with two tribes


Oklahoma’s Governor Kevin Stitt has signed new tribal betting compacts with the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians (UKB) and Kialegee Tribal Town (KTT).

The compacts will allow both the UKB and KTT to offer Class III games and table games, but neither arrangement covers sports wagering.

The KTT compact said that the tribe will pay the state 12% of its gross gaming revenue (GRR) from slot machines during the first two years of operation. This rate will increase to between 13-15% for each year through to the end of 2035, depending on GGR total.

GGR of up to $300m will be taxed at a rate of 13%, rising to 14% for between $300m and $500m, and 15% for any amount above this. Card games not banked by the house will be taxed at 18%.

The compact also allows for the KTT to open a new casino in eastern Oklahoma County, Oklahoma.

“By negotiating with each individual Oklahoma tribe, the state is seeking to level the playing field for all tribes and working to ensure that no one is held back by its size or resources from competing and pursuing economic growth for its citizens,” said Governor Stitt said.

“The Kialegee Tribal Town is pursuing a sound business plan for its first gaming location in Oklahoma with their compact commitment to partner with another Tribe on this venture.”

Meanwhile, the UKB’s compact would work in a similar fashion, though tax rates will be based on slot machine GGR from the start of the agreement.

The UKB will pay at a rate of 12% for GGR up to $300m, 13% between $300m and $500m, and 15% above $500m. The rate for card games not banked by the house will be taxed at a rate of 18%.

In addition, like the KTT, the compact will allow the UKB to open a new brick-and-mortar casino in Logan County, Oklahoma.

“One year after beginning gaming compact negotiations, the state has entered into its fourth compact that makes way for Oklahoma tribes to innovate and compete in a new, dynamic gaming market and strengthens state-tribal relationships,” said Governor Stitt said.

“The compact includes a commitment from the state to support the UKB’s pursuit of land for its first gaming location.”

Both compacts remain subject to approval by the US Department of the Interior (DOI), which last month gave the green light to two other compacts agreed by the state.

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.

However, the compacts have faced heavy criticism from both the state legislature and other tribal operators, with Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter having issued a formal opinion arguing Stitt did not have the power to broker the deals.

Hunter said the State-Tribal Gaming Act only permits officials to agree compacts for products not prohibited under state law. The act prohibits all 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.

According to Hunter, this in turn meant they failed to comply with the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

Other tribes have also hit out at the compacts, with the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association (OIGA) initially attacking the compacts as based on a false notion of “unilateral state authority”.

State tribal operators are already embroiled in a dispute with Stitt over the validity of their existing compacts. The Governor is of the opinion these expired in January 2020, but the tribes believe they automatically renewed.

The OIGA 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.