Tribal Leaders Defend New Gaming Compacts In Legal Memo

May 14, 2020

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The leaders of two Oklahoma-based Native American tribes defended on Wednesday their recent gambling compacts with the state and urged the U.S. Department of the Interior to approve them.

The chairmen of the Otoe-Missouria Tribe and the Comanche Nation outlined their positions in a ten-page legal memo sent to Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. The memo was in response to Attorney General Mike Hunter’s formal opinion earlier this month that Gov. Kevin Stitt overstepped his legal authority by signing the compacts, which authorize games, such as sports gambling, not currently permitted under state law.

“The compacts are the product of good-faith negotiations with the state. They comply entirely with federal and state law, and they should be approved,” Comanche Nation Chairman William Nelson, Sr. and Otoe-Missouria Tribe Chairman John Shotton wrote.

The memo cites several examples of compacts the agency has approved in recent years that address forms of gambling that aren’t currently authorized under state law.

“It is entirely appropriate for a compact to include provisions regarding forms of gaming that are not yet legal, but may be in the future,” the memo states.

The two leaders said failure to approve the compacts could make it more difficult for the state of Oklahoma to reach a settlement in a separate dispute with several other tribes about whether their existing compacts automatically renewed.