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Oklahoma Supreme Court rejects tribal gaming compacts


The Oklahoma Supreme Court has voted to reject two tribal gaming compacts signed by Governor Kevin Stitt, ruling that both agreements are invalid under state law.

Stitt signed gaming compacts with the Otoe-Missouria Tribe and the Comanche Nation in April, allowing the two tribes to offer Class III games, including sports betting, poker, roulette, slots and blackjack.

However, the compacts faced heavy criticism from 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.

The Supreme Court has now voted 7-1 to reject the compacts, ruling the deals cannot be deemed legal as they include games that have not yet been approved in the state and therefore generating revenue from the games is prohibited.

Responding to the news, Hunter praised the ruling, outlining his hopes that the verdict “settles and advances the resolution of gaming compact negotiations” in Oklahoma.

“The Supreme Court affirmed what my office has opined, and the pro tem of the Senate and the speaker of the House of Representatives have argued all along, the governor lacks the authority to enter into and bind the state to compacts with Indian tribes that authorize gaming activity prohibited by state law,” he said.

“We applaud today’s ruling and appreciate the court for carefully looking at this and coming to an apt conclusion.”

However, Comanche Chairman William Nelson Sr. hit out at the decision, saying that the compact is “legal under federal law and is a matter of tribal sovereignty”.

Nelson Sr. also said the tribe intends to continue operating under the terms of the compact and offering types of gambling that is not currently legal in the state of Oklahoma.

The Supreme Court ruling came despite the US Department of the Interior (DOI) having given its approval to the two compacts last month, in a move that seemingly cleared the way for the deals to complete.

Earlier this month, Governor Stitt also signed separate gaming compacts with both 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 unlike the now-rejected compacts, neither arrangement covers sports wagering.