Gov. Kevin Stitt held a news conference Thursday afternoon to announce there’s been no progress renegotiating tribal gaming compacts.
Stitt remains firm in his position compacts expire and stood in front of a poster-size printout of the relevant clause for emphasis.
"The fact is, it expires on Jan. 1, 2020. This is going to cause extreme uncertainty if we don’t have a new compact before Jan. 1, 2020," Stitt said.
The Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association responded after Stitt's news conference. Chickasaw Nation Senior Counsel Stephen Greetham said the clause goes on to say expiration is tied to whether horse tracks are allowed to offer electronic gaming in addition to race betting.
"As long as electronic gaming is still being conducted at the horse tracks, these compacts will automatically renew for another term. On Oct. 17 this year, the Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission relicensed Fair Meadows, Remington Park, Will Rogers Downs," Greetham said.
Stitt went on to say Thursday negotiations are not going well. Stitt said a meeting late last month ended abruptly.
"They would not listen to our plan, and then two or three days later, we got a subsequent letter that says arbitration’s off the table with no other resolution with how to get past this. So, the fact of the matter is, they have refused to communicate with me," Stitt said.
Tribal leaders, meanwhile, said they were blindsided by Stitt’s calls for negotiations in editorials in July. Greetham said the governor will face a tough battle if he’s thinking about putting a hold on gaming after Jan. 1, 2020.
"He would have to go to court, and he would have to try to get some type of order to shut the casinos down. Barring that, we’re just going to continue to operate, and we’re going to continue remitting our revenue share payments to the state and we’re going to continue to grow as we have been the past 15 years," Greetham said.
Stitt says he wants tribes to pay exclusivity fees more in line with other states. Tribes say that demand ignores industry realities and contributions outside those payments.