Federal Judge Rejects Request From Oklahoma Governor

The state of Oklahoma is back in the news again this week, and the tribal gaming compacts are again the main topic. This has been an ongoing battle since Jan. 1, but the matter was supposed to be resolved many months ago.

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt recently requested that a federal judge determine what kind of power he has when it comes to these negotiations. Tribal nations in Oklahoma were hoping that this request would be overturned, and they got their wish on Wednesday.

Federal Judge Timothy DeGiusti was in charge of handing down the ruling, and he denied the appeal that was set forth by Stitt. DeGiusti issued a four-page ruling in which he deemed it inappropriate for the federal government to get involved in state disputes.

The request by Stitt came after many lawmakers and the Attorney General in Oklahoma questioned his moves earlier this year. Stitt negotiated new gaming compacts with the Otoe-Missouria Tribe and Comanche Nation, and Attorney General Mike Hunter felt that he overstepped his boundaries.

Hunter claims to challenge the compacts in the court of law, and Stitt wanted more clarification as to what he was allowed to do. Other tribal nations have also kicked Otoe-Missouria and Comanche Nation out of their tribal organization for the remainder of the year.

The US Interior Department actually signed off on the gaming compacts that Stitt negotiated, but that decision has already been appealed. In those compacts, Stitt promised the two tribes the ability to launch sports betting at their casinos.

Even Bigger Battle Still Ongoing

The biggest battle in the state of Oklahoma is between 35 tribal nations and Governor Stitt. These tribes had gaming compacts with the state that expired on Jan. 1, and they were under the impression that they would carry over into 2020.

Stitt is in his first term as Governor of Oklahoma, and he believes that the state should be able to negotiate new terms with each tribe. Stitt is hopeful that the state will see more tax revenue as a result of new compacts, but the tribes have been unwilling to agree to his terms.

The Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Cherokee Nations are the most powerful tribal organizations in the state of Oklahoma, and they filed a lawsuit against Stitt on Jan. 1. They have since been joined in this suit by more than 30 other tribes, and the result of that suit is still yet to be determined.

Tribal leaders of these tribes praised DeGiusti for his decision earlier this week, and they have maintained that they will continue their lawsuit. Stitt has proposed negotiating with each tribe individually, but the tribes have continued to stick together besides the Otoe-Missouria and Comanche Nation.

This isn’t the first time that DeGiusti has had to get involved in this dispute, and he is extremely familiar with the lawsuit. DeGiusti ordered the tribes and Stitt to resolve their dispute through mediation, and that was supposed to take place at some point in March.

The coronavirus pandemic’s onset delayed the start of this mediation process, but Stitt has also used other tactics to delay. His decision to request for clarification of his power has also kept the mediation process from taking place.

Now it appears that the decision will ultimately be settled in the Oklahoma Supreme Court. A number of the top officials in the state have recommended this step, and they are in support of a decision finally being reached.
Tribal casinos can reopen in the state of Oklahoma, but sports betting cannot be offered.

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Rebecca lives in Las Vegas and after completing her degree at Reynolds Journalism school joined the USGS team to pursue her journalism dreams.