LAWTON, Okla. (TNN) - Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt is giving tribes less than 5 months to renegotiate the 15-year Tribal-State Gaming Compact. Set to renew on January 1, 2020, the compact requires Native American tribes to pay exclusivity fees to the state. It’s a fight Terri Parton, with the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes says Governor Kevin Stitt doesn’t want.
“Our tribes will fight this," said Parton. "There is no point in fighting something that’s been working. The tribes have done all the work. You can’t come in and get money from something you didn’t work for.”
Tribes are required to pay between 4% - 6% of their casino earnings back to the state. Governor Stitt recently sent tribe leaders a letter saying it’s time to revisit the agreement:
Matthew Morgan, Chairman of the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association says the governor’s letter caught tribes off guard, 5 months before the compact was expected to renew. Their business relies on certainty and when there’s talks to change that, it makes it difficult for tribes to budget and project their future revenue.
“Something like this comes out and it makes everyone pause and re-evaluate those plans," said Morgan. "I think that’s what worries tribes right now.”
The Oklahoma Native Impact report says the state’s 38 federally recognized tribes generated $12.9 billion in 2017. It’s an industry Parton says affects everyone.
“Our tribes are intermarried with non Indians and our kids, our schools," she said. "We contribute a lot to that. He needs to think about that - he’s not just fighting the tribe on this - there will be taxpayers that will be affected.”
With the clock ticking to make a move, Morgan says it’s up to Governor Stitt to create a proposal to take to the tribes.
“I think the ball is in Governor Stitt’s court at this point," said Morgan. "When your contractual partner comes to you and says, look either you come to better terms or the deal is over, I don’t think that’s the most appropriate way to treat sovereign tribes on a government to government basis.”
If the parties are unable to reach an agreement, the compact will renew on January 1.