Federal judge orders mediation in Oklahoma gaming dispute

OKLAHOMA CITY — A federal judge ordered mediation for Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and several Native American tribes that are locked in legal dispute over gaming rights. 

In a four-page court order issued on Monday, U.S. District Court Chief Judge Timothy D. DeGiusti ordered Stitt and the tribes to submit the names of three proposed mediators no later than Feb. 14. The order also sets a deadline for mediation to be “completed or substantially completed” by March 31.  

The order for mediation comes in response to a federal lawsuit filed by three powerful Oklahoma tribes in December. The lawsuit brought by the Cherokee, Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations seeks a judicial declaration that the gaming compacts they have with the state automatically renew in accord with their terms, effective January 1, 2020. 

Since the initial legal filing, the Citizen Potawatomi Nation and Muscogee (Creek) Nation have joined the lawsuit.  

In mid-January, Stitt asked the court to stop the tribes from operating Class III gaming in Oklahoma, alleging that the gaming compacts with the state had expired.    

The gaming compacts at issue require tribes to pay the state “exclusivity fees” of between 4% and 10% on gambling revenue in exchange for exclusivity rights to operate casinos in Oklahoma. The exclusivity fees paid by tribes generated nearly $139 million for the state last year, with most of it earmarked for education funding.

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