OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt announced Tuesday that he has reached an agreement with two Indian tribes to increase the state`s share of revenue from new casinos, but the governor remains trapped in a gambling dispute with 10 other tribes. “Unlike treaties, pacts are solemn agreements between two sovereigns that remain in force until both sides agree on something different,” said Chickasaw Governor Bill Anoatubby. Lawmakers have previously secured, at the request of the state`s tribal casino operators, an extension of gambling in 2018. The legalization of dice and roulette games in tribal casinos was authorized in exchange for payment of only $24 million by tribal casino operators this year. While lawmakers have authorized a wide range of tax increases for working families from 2015 to 2018, including taxes on basic needs such as transportation and fuel, they have refused to ask casinos to pay a significantly larger share. Many legislators are financial beneficiaries of tribal campaign donations, including by the Cherokee Nation, Chickasaw Nation and Choctaw Nation and officials with tribal bands. When the cases of COVID 19 appeared throughout the state, casinos closed their doors and leaders turned their attention to the deadly virus. Casino games have become a huge money creator for Oklahoma-based Indian tribes, after gaining the exclusive right to operate casinos 15 years ago under a voter-approved pact with the state. Dozens of casinos, including several glittering complexes across Las Vegas, generate more than $2 billion a year, with $150 million paid into state coffers last year, mostly for public schools. And a lawyer representing legislative leaders in the lawsuit – former Senate chief Glenn Coffee – also has ties to the state`s largest casino operators who refuse Stitt`s efforts.
However, the tribes claimed that the pact would automatically be renewed in the absence of new agreements. The new pacts announced Tuesday would allow both tribes to offer sports games. The state`s share in sports games would be 1.1% of the amount depending on usage. Under the new compacts, the exclusivity fees paid by the tribes to the State would be between 4.5% and 6% of the net turnover of existing casinos, which corresponds to the royalties paid under the current pacts. But this amount would increase by up to 13% in the new casinos that build the tribes. Currently, Oklahoma Indian tribes pay more than $140 million a year in exclusive fees for casino games. However, some heads of state say it is time for that to change. While Oklahoma is home to dozens of federally recognized tribes, most of which have casinos, the financial advantage of old gaming compacts has passed on only a small fraction of these tribal governments. The new compacts were initially rejected by other tribal casino operators, including those who received a significant share of Oklahoma`s revenue under the previous compacts. Stitt and the participating tribes argue that the new pacts increase the economic benefits for smaller tribes that are severely disadvantaged under the old system.