Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt intends to renegotiate tribal gaming compacts, and that has the Osage Nation on high alert.
Stitt said most agreements giving tribes exclusive rights to gaming net their states 20 to 25% of casino gross revenues, while Oklahoma gets about 6%. Osage Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear said tribes invest heavily in casinos and accompanying hotels and resorts because profits pay for tribal government services.
"So, when we tax on these enterprises, we’re taxing our people. We’re taxing on their health. We’re taxing their education. We’re taxing their future," Standing Bear said.
Gaming is a roughly $5 billion a year industry in Oklahoma. Tribes have paid the state more than $1.2 billion since the compacts took effect.
"We will protect these casinos. OK? And if we have to go back to the days before the compact, the days before agreement, we will," Standing Bear said.
Oklahoma’s 15-year model compact would renew automatically if the tribes and state did nothing. Standing Bear said the state’s relationship with tribes has come a long way from when the first casino in Oklahoma opened in 1984.
"We were constantly in court against the state of Oklahoma, costing millions of dollars to attorneys fees, expert witness fees on both sides, and division was something that we saw much too often," Standing Bear said.
The federal government must approve any new deal tribes and the state reach.