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OKLAHOMA CITY — Four Oklahoma tribes late last week filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Department of the Interior and Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt over the approval of two new tribal gaming compacts signed in April.

Kevin Stitt

Also included in the lawsuit brought by the Cherokee Nation, Chickasaw Nation, Choctaw Nation and Citizen Potawatomi Nation are Comanche Nation Chairman William Nelson and Otoe-Missouria Tribal Chairman John Shotton.

The lawsuit claims federal law was violated when the Interior Department approved the tribal gaming compacts between the state of Oklahoma and the Comanche Nation and the Otoe-Missouria tribes in April 2020.

The lawsuit seeks reversal of “the Defendant Secretary’s arbitrary, capricious, and unlawful ‘no action’ approval under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act,” the suit reads. The four tribes maintain in the lawsuit that Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and Assistant Secretary Tara Katuk MacLean Sweeney in their official capacities were obligated by law to disapprove of the agreements based on the multiple provisions that were invalid under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

One such provision authorized categories of games including sports and video game betting, even though they are not permitted under Oklahoma law.

Additionally, the lawsuit claims the governor of Oklahoma did not have the authority to enter into the agreements on behalf of the state.

“The Agreements do not identify any source of the Defendant Governor Stitt’s authority other than his own claim to hold such authority, which is patently insufficient, and the Supreme Court of Oklahoma has since squarely held that Governor Stitt does not have authority to bind the State to the Agreements,” the lawsuit said.

In July, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled the tribal gaming agreements between Stitt and the Comanche Nation and Otoe-Missouri Tribe were invalid under Oklahoma state law.

The Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association (OIGA) supports the four tribes. In a statement OIGA Chairman Matthew Morgan said Stitt “never had the legal authority to enter into these gaming agreements. Hopefully, the suit filed today will bring an end to this unnecessary and costly chapter and allow all the state and tribal governments to move back to a proper government-to-government relationship that includes honest and respectful communications for the betterment of all of Oklahoma.”

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