Oklahoma AG Says Gambling Revenue Can't Be Diverted

Mar 10, 2020

Credit Matt Trotter / KWGS

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Gov. Kevin Stitt’s administration cannot divert gambling revenue from tribal casinos into a trust while a legal dispute between the governor and the tribes is pending in federal court, Oklahoma’s attorney general said in a legal opinion on Monday.

In response to an inquiry from Sen. Roger Thompson, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Attorney General Mike Hunter said gambling revenue received by the state must be allocated under the provisions of state law, which directs that 12% of the revenue be deposited into the state’s general fund and the rest into a fund for public education.

"The Tribes will continue to remit exclusivity fees, and we are pleased public school districts will continue to receive their payments from the state in a timely fashion," Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association Chairman Matt Morgan said in a statement.

Stitt and several of the 39 federally recognized tribes in Oklahoma are locked in a dispute over revenue from tribal gambling. Stitt contends the compacts expired on Jan. 1, while the tribes maintain the compacts automatically renewed for another 15-year term.

Several of the largest tribes sued the governor in federal court in December, and a federal judge has ordered mediation. In response to that lawsuit, Stitt suggested gambling revenue be placed in a trust until the lawsuit is settled.

Meanwhile, gambling at tribal casinos has continued and tribes continue to remit payments to the state. Those payments last year totaled about $150 million.