A unexpected event involving sports betting occurred in Oklahoma on Monday when two new tribal-state compacts in Oklahoma were “deemed approved,” when the U.S. Department of the Interior’s 45-day window to review the compacts expired. The pacts between the state of Oklahoma and the Otoe-Missouria Tribe and the Comanche Nation would allow for sports wagering, but major hurdles await.
“The tribes cannot begin operating under the terms of these compacts until the many questions that remain pending before the Oklahoma Supreme Court are resolved,” said Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter, per an Associated Press report. “I am deeply disappointed in Interior Secretary (David) Bernhardt’s abdication of his responsibility to all of Oklahoma’s Native American sovereigns, not just two.”
One pending case involves whether or not 15-year-old compacts auto-renewed, according to the AP. On this point, Gov. Kevin Stitt and the tribes disagree. This new pair of 15-year pacts — controversially negotiated between Stitt and the two tribal nations — would allow for sports betting at specific tribal properties, but not statewide via mobile/online devices. State lawmakers and stakeholders have been unable to come to a consensus on legalizing sports betting throughout the state.
When Gov. Stitt announced the pacts in April, he got immediate pushback from both Hunter and the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association, both of which believe Stitt overstepped in negotiating the pacts. OIGA, which in April released a statement questioning Stitt’s authority, has since suspended the Otoe-Missouria Tribe and Comanche Nation from its organization.
A statement released on May 7 reads, in part, “This was a difficult decision to make, but it was the correct one. Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association works best when its membership can speak frankly and with the trust that all members are working together to support our industry as a whole,” said OIGA Chairman Matthew L. Morgan.
In most states, tribal interests have banded together to either move forward with or oppose sports betting legislation. Two examples are Washington’s tribes, which worked in unison with state lawmakers to pass the nation’s first sweeping tribal-only sports betting law in March, and the California tribes, which first came together to propose a referendum that has been derailed by COVID-19 measures and now oppose current legislation that would allow statewide mobile and unequivocally legalize the player-banked games at card rooms.
There are 36 tribes operating casinos throughout the state, including the Chickasaw, which owns eight casinos and made news when its WinStar Casino became the first to announce a partnership with an NFL team in 2018, the Dallas Cowboys.