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Tribes sue Gov. Kevin Stitt over renewal of gaming compacts

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Oklahoma's three largest gaming tribes have filed a federal lawsuit against Gov. Kevin Stitt seeking a declaratory judgment that the tribe's gaming compacts automatically renew Wednesday.

The Cherokee, Chickasaw and Choctaw nations filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Oklahoma City federal court, naming Stitt in his official capacity as governor.

“We have a solemn duty to protect the sovereign rights of our Tribal Nations as well as the interests of our citizens," Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby said in a prepared statement that accompanied the filing of the lawsuit. "While we prefer negotiation to litigation, the federal court is now the only reasonable alternative to bring legal certainty to this issue. We remain hopeful we will continue to have a productive and mutually beneficial relationship with the State of Oklahoma once we have resolved this issue.”

The tribes want a federal judge to rule that their 15-year gaming compacts automatically renew on Wednesday.

That is contrary to the governor's position that the compacts expire Wednesday and that gaming operations will be illegal unless the compacts are extended or renegotiated.

The governor wants the tribes to renegotiate the gaming compacts and pay the state higher exclusivity rates than the 4-6 percent graduated rates that they have been paying on the Las Vegas-style Class III slot machines that they operate. Tribes also pay rates of up to 10 percent on certain table games.

The state has received about $1.5 billion in exclusivity fees from tribes since 2006, including about $148 million in fiscal year 2019, alone.

“The governor’s stance on the gaming compact has created uncertainty and has been seen as a threat to our employees and our business partners," said Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton. " We see this legal action as the most viable option to restore the clarity and stability the tribes and Oklahoma both deserve by obtaining a resolution that our compact does automatically renew."

Related Photos
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. speaks  during a news conference with tribal leaders from 32 tribes to speak out against Gov. Kevin Stitt's request to extend gaming compact negotiations Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. speaks during a news conference with tribal leaders from 32 tribes to speak out against Gov. Kevin Stitt's request to extend gaming compact negotiations Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-5497d08e731ee9cc9f183725de746b67.jpg" alt="Photo - Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. speaks during a news conference with tribal leaders from 32 tribes to speak out against Gov. Kevin Stitt's request to extend gaming compact negotiations Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World" title="Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. speaks during a news conference with tribal leaders from 32 tribes to speak out against Gov. Kevin Stitt's request to extend gaming compact negotiations Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World"><figcaption>Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. speaks during a news conference with tribal leaders from 32 tribes to speak out against Gov. Kevin Stitt's request to extend gaming compact negotiations Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World</figcaption></figure>
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