UNITED STATES NEWS

Oklahoma attorney general joins lawsuit over tribal gambling agreements, criticizes GOP governor

Jul 25, 2023, 12:38 PM | Updated: 1:02 pm

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma’s new Republican attorney general accused Gov. Kevin Stitt on Tuesday of failing to follow state law and said he’s stepping into a long running legal dispute over tribal gambling agreements Stitt signed in 2020.

In a letter and personal phone call to the fellow Republican, Attorney General Gentner Drummond said he notified Stitt that he’s joining the lawsuit to represent the state’s interest at the request of House Speaker Charles McCall and Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat.

“As you should fully understand, this long running and costly litigation is a direct result of your refusal to follow Oklahoma law,” Drummond wrote. “The four tribal gaming compacts you signed were invalid from the start because you did not have the approval or authorization from the Oklahoma Legislature to enter the gaming compacts.”

Stitt’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Drummond’s action.

The Cherokee, Chickasaw, Citizen Potawatomi and Choctaw nations filed a federal lawsuit in federal district court in Washington over the governor’s gambling compacts with four other tribes: the Comanche Nation, the Otoe-Missouria, the Kialegee Tribal Town and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians. Private law firms hired by Stitt to defend the compacts have already racked up nearly $600,000 in legal fees, Drummond said.

Stitt entered into those agreements after his failed attempt in 2019 to renegotiate the gambling compacts with all of the Oklahoma-based tribes, seeking a greater share of revenue for the state and arguing that the compacts approved by voters in 2004 had expired. A federal judge ultimately sided with the tribes and said the compacts automatically renewed.

Since then, Stitt’s relationship with tribal leaders has continued to worsen, prompting criticism from fellow Republicans about his hostile approach to tribal negotiations. Treat, the Republican leader of the state Senate, said this week lawmakers may consider taking control of negotiating tribal compacts away from the governor.

Casino gambling is a booming industry in Oklahoma, with more than 130 casinos dotting the state, ranging from gas station annexes to resort-style hotel casinos, many of them in border communities, since voters approved a gambling expansion in 2004. The fees the tribes paid to the state for the exclusive right to casino-style gambling totaled nearly $200 million last year, most of which was earmarked for public schools.

United States News

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Oklahoma attorney general joins lawsuit over tribal gambling agreements, criticizes GOP governor