April 27, 2020 by Ryan Knuppel
Many in Oklahoma are upset that Governor Kevin Stitt made an exclusive compact with two Tribal casinos.
There has been a huge outcry in the Sooner State when it comes to proposed sports betting in the state. The issue at hand is that Governor Kevin Stitt entered into a compact agreement with two Indian tribes that would give those tribes a monopoly and would exclude non-tribal members from obtaining sports betting licenses.
Stitt, a member of the Republican party, is also only the second governor of Oklahoma to be a Native American. Stitt is a member of the Cherokee Nation, and his detractors say that’s why he is partial to Tribe-owned casinos having sports betting licenses, not allowing anyone else into the extremely profitable industry.
Many in the state are calling for an investigation as they cry foul. Stitt, a former businessman, and a native of Norman, Okla., said the allegations against him are untrue.
However, he has not been able to explain why he will not allow non-Tribal members the opportunity to apply for sports betting licenses. An attorney representing the two tribes that the Governor has the compact agreement with made a statement over the weekend. He said the leaders of the tribe do not want to be front and center in this contentious argument.
Tribes Want Issue Resolved By The State Before A Launch
The tribes clearly do not want to be at the epicenter for this cantankerous non-stop argument. Attorney Rob Rosette represents the tribes at the center of the in-fighting, the Comanche Nation and Otoe and Missouria Tribe.
Rosette said over the weekend, “It’s not an issue we will fight about.”
Rosette tried to explain that those making the arguments against the tribes having sports betting at their casinos “are terribly misinformed.” Rosette said the only real benefit for the tribes is the amount of money they will pay the state.
The compact agreement brokered between the tribes and Stitt calls for the exclusivity fees the tribes have to pay the state, which have been lowered from 6% to 4.5%. That is the current agreement.
Non-Tribal casinos are wanting the same opportunity to obtain sports betting licenses as two Tribal casinos are getting.
However, if the tribes launch sports betting in more casinos, the amount could be adjusted according to the agreement. Rosette said that if the operations stayed with their original plans, they would be paying the state an average of 25% less than the original agreement.
Disagreements Have Nothing To Do With Tax Fees
A source from the other side of the argument spoke out too over the weekend, saying that the fees the tribes would have to pay the state has nothing to do with the argument. “It’s about who is allowed to have a sports betting license and who is not allowed.”
Several lawmakers in the state have called into question the Governor’s actions. Attorney General Mike Hunter, Senate President Greg Treat, and House Speaker Charles McCall, all Republicans, said Governor Stitt overstepped his boundaries and authority by including sports betting in the compact agreements.
A bigger question said Hunter, “It’s not what the Governor did; it’s more about why he did it.”
Sports betting and games like craps, blackjack and roulette are also included in the compact. Hunter and others have said that those games being in the compact violates several state statutes.
Rosette said, “State legislators that are voicing objections to the actual compact are really concerned about who is getting a sports license; that’s the real issue that no one wants to say out loud.”
The argument will rage on this week as state legislators are holding virtual meetings to address both sides of the issue.