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Two Oklahoma tribes face opposition in requests to participate in lawsuit over gaming compacts

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Five Oklahoma gaming tribes have asked a federal judge to reject requests by two other tribes to participate in their lawsuit against Gov. Kevin Stitt.

The two tribes facing opposition are the Kialegee Tribal Town headquartered in Wetumka and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians which is headquartered in Tahlequah.

Challenging their participation in the lawsuit are the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee (Creek) and Citizen Potawatomi nations.

Neither the Kialegee nor the Keetoowah tribes currently have gaming operations in Oklahoma. Both have run into legal problems in the past over efforts to build and operate casinos.

The two tribes drew the ire of other tribes late last year when they received strong praise from Stitt for signing eight-month extension agreements to tribal gaming compacts. The vast majority of other tribes had refused to sign the extensions, citing their legal position that extensions were unnecessary because the 15-year gaming compacts automatically renewed Jan. 1.

Stitt contends the compacts expired on that date. He has said he wants the tribes to renegotiate the compacts to pay higher exclusivity fee rates than the 4%-6% graduated rates they have been paying on Las Vegas-style Class III slot machines.

The federal lawsuit in which the Kialegee and Keetoowah tribes are seeking to intervene is over the issue of whether the compacts expired or automatically renewed on Jan. 1. That lawsuit is currently in mediation.

In their requests to participate in the lawsuit, the Kialegee and Keetoowah tribes contend they have "a significant interest in the outcome of this case" and their involvement is necessary to protect their sovereignty and federal rights.

"Intervention is also important here because this case is about to enter mediation," they said, adding that the confidentiality of mediation proceedings would prevent them from knowing how their rights were being defended unless they were present.

Tribes opposing the Kialegee and Keetoowah tribes' participation contend the Keetoowah tribe doesn't have a valid compact because it has not yet been approved by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior and published in the Federal Register. They say it is "unclear" whether the Kialegee tribe has entered into a valid compact.

They also contend that the two tribes' interest in the litigation is "starkly different" from those of the other tribes because both have signed extensions and neither is currently conducting Class III gaming operations.

"The governor's actions ... have not affected them in any way," the five tribes argued.

Oklahoma City federal court Judge Timothy D. DeGiusti entered an order giving the Kialegee and Keetoowah tribes until Tuesday to respond to objections to their participating in the case.

The judge also issued an order dividing up how mediation expenses are to be paid that takes into account the disparity in size of the various tribes that have asked to participate.

The state and three tribes that originally filed the lawsuit — the Cherokee, Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations — are each to pay 15% of the mediation costs, the judge said. The remaining 40% will be divided up among tribes that joined the lawsuit later, with the tribes, themselves, determining the method of division, he said. The judge said he would determine a fair division if no agreement could be reached at the conclusion of mediation.

Related Photos
<strong>Five Oklahoma gaming tribes have asked a federal judge to reject requests by two other tribes to participate in their lawsuit against Gov. Kevin Stitt. [FILE PHOTO]</strong>

Five Oklahoma gaming tribes have asked a federal judge to reject requests by two other tribes to participate in their lawsuit against Gov. Kevin Stitt. [FILE PHOTO]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-28298a99fd058849479ef05c0bd66617.jpg" alt="Photo - Five Oklahoma gaming tribes have asked a federal judge to reject requests by two other tribes to participate in their lawsuit against Gov. Kevin Stitt. [FILE PHOTO] " title=" Five Oklahoma gaming tribes have asked a federal judge to reject requests by two other tribes to participate in their lawsuit against Gov. Kevin Stitt. [FILE PHOTO] "><figcaption> Five Oklahoma gaming tribes have asked a federal judge to reject requests by two other tribes to participate in their lawsuit against Gov. Kevin Stitt. [FILE PHOTO] </figcaption></figure>
Randy Ellis

For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two... Read more ›

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