29 tribal nations unite

29 tribal nations unite
On July 26, Tribal leaders came together to address Gov. Stitt's call to renegotiate Oklahoma's Gaming contract. (Shutterstock)

Tribal leaders present a united front on tribal gaming negotiations

By Angel Ellis/Reporter

Tribal leaders present a united front on tribal gaming negotiations

OKLAHOMA CITY– Last month Governor J. Kevin Stitt’s call to the tribes to renegotiate Oklahoma’s Gaming compact sparked a unification of Native American Tribes across the state. On July 26, Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association officially transmitted a letter to Stitt on behalf of 29 Tribal Nations.

The letter was individually signed by 29 leaders of the tribes including Principal Chief James Floyd of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.

The letter expresses the leader’s intentions to represent a united response.

‘We, the undersigned Tribal leaders, respectfully represent that we intend to stand united in response to your recent statement that the Gaming Compact will expire at the end of this year,” the letter said.

The letter also confirmed the Tribal nation’s stance that the compact ‘…will automatically renew on January 1, 2020.’

The letter also stated that Tribal leaders believe the rates under the present Gaming Compact should not change.

‘They represent promises made by the State of Oklahoma and the Tribes,’ the letter said. ‘Promises we intend to fulfill now and in the future, and we expect the State to do the same.’

The letter said it recognized that the Governor has the right under the present Gaming Compact to request a renegotiation of rates.

‘We would ask that you send your proposal to each and every Tribe together so that we may consider any proposal as a unified body of tribal leaders,’ the letter said.

On July 10, Stitt issued his stance on the topic in a Tulsa World Op-ed piece stating the compact was set to expire on Jan 1, 2020, and calling on 35 Tribal leaders to contact the Governors’ General Counsel Mark Burget.

On July 12, Tribal leaders of the Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes also delivered a unified response to Governors Stitt’s call to renegotiate the compact.

At the Inter-Tribal Council meeting leaders highlighted the current compact, which was approved by Oklahoma voters in 2004.

According to the statement released from that meeting, Tribal Gaming in Oklahoma employs over 55,000 Oklahomans and paid over $1.5 billion over the past 15-years to fund education.

Recent economic studies indicate that the total Tribal contributions to the State of Oklahoma tallied up to $12.9 billion in 2017. That figure incorporates the tribal impact beyond gaming funding.

The Governor rolled out this renegotiation comparing Oklahoma’s gaming exclusivity fees, fees that the tribes pay to the state, as being considerably lower than of the national average.

In the Tulsa World, Governor Stitt said that most state-tribal compacts deliver to the state 20%-25%. He also claimed the current agreement to be in the 4%-6% range.

Chickasaw Nations General Counsel Stephen Greetham refuted those numbers in the Tulsa World.

Greetham believes that only 14 out of 276 tribal-state gaming compacts pull rates that high.

In Oklahoma alone, there are 131 gaming facilities.

The Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill Baker, Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby, Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton, Muscogee (Creek) Nation James R. Floyd, The Seminole Nation Chief Greg P. Chilcoat communicated their dissatisfaction with the governors handling of the renegotiations in their Inter-Tribal Council statement.

‘The recent action of Governor Stitt puts into question his sincerity to work with us in a cooperative manner moving ahead,’ the statement said.

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