OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The state’s top Native American gaming official rejected Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt’s latest casino gambling offer on Friday and accused the governor of trying to take advantage of the tribes during the coronavirus pandemic.
Matthew Morgan, the chairman of the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association, described the governor’s latest offer as “yet another unsuccessful attempt to divide the tribes.”
“The letter confirms the real intent of Governor Stitt is to destroy the tribal interest outlined in the existing compacts,” Morgan said. “The tribal leaders who received the letter reject the proposal as disrespectful and disingenuous.”
In a letter Tuesday to tribal leaders, one of Stitt’s outside attorneys, Steve Mullins, wrote that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the landscape for tribal and non-tribal governments.
“Now more than ever is the time for us to stand together,” Mullins wrote.
Included with the letter is the proposed new compact, which would require tribes to pay a flat 5% fee on gambling revenue and authorize both the tribe and the state to offer sports gambling, Morgan said. The state would receive 2% of the amount wagered on sports gambling, a figure Morgan said would make it difficult for tribes to compete with illegal sports gambling. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the proposed compact on Friday.
The compact would also give the state more power over tribal casino operations, including approval of casino vendors and a requirement that tribes put a certain number of electronic machines on its casino floor.
“This compact is a huge power grab for his office,” Morgan said.
A spokeswoman for Stitt said the governor, who is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, remains committed to negotiating with every tribe in Oklahoma to secure a new compact.
“The state has been aggressively communicating with every tribe in Oklahoma to advance a common-sense solution on model gaming compacts,” spokeswoman Baylee Lakey said in a statement. “We cannot comment on the details of compact negotiations while engaged in court-ordered mediation, which is still ongoing.”
The state and the tribes have been locked in dispute for months over whether the existing compact expired on Jan. 1. Stitt maintains it expired, while the tribes contend it renewed for another 15-year term.
Three of the state’s most powerful tribes sued Stitt in federal court in December, and a federal judge has ordered mediation.