Oklahoma Governor files federal lawsuit to stop Indian gaming

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt

Published January 23, 2020

OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt has asked a federal court to stop American Indian tribes from operating Class III gaming in Oklahoma. 

Stitt’s legal filing yesterday is in response to a federal lawsuit filed by three powerful Oklahoma tribes a month ago. The Cherokee, Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of the Western District of Oklahoma. The suit seeks a judicial declaration that the gaming compacts they have with the state automatically renew in accord with their terms, effective January 1, 2020. 

The tribes continue to operate Class III gaming, despite Gov. Stitt’s contention that the compacts expired January 1.  Class III gaming includes roulette, craps and certain slot machines. 

Stitt’s response to the tribes’ lawsuit was filed Wednesday. In the legal filing, he asks the court to declare the compacts did not automatically renew and that the tribes are violating federal and state laws by continuing to operate the Class III games. He is seeking a court-ordered injunction to stop the tribes from operating the Class III games. 

“We are reviewing the pleading his lawyers filed on his behalf and look forward to learning what legal basis he will claim to justify the uncertainty he has endeavored to create,” Chickasaw Nation Senior Counsel Stephen Greetham told the Associated Press

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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