OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt overstepped his authority when he reached a casino gambling agreement with two Native American tribes, the state Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.
In a 7-1 decision, the high court determined the compacts Stitt signed with the Comanche Nation and Otoe-Missouria Tribes are “invalid under Oklahoma law.”
The deals would have allowed the two tribes to offer wagering on sporting events and house-banked card and table games. The compacts also would have allowed the tribes to construct new casinos closer to larger population centers, and would have given the state a larger share of casino revenues from those new casinos. The U.S. Department of the Interior gave tacit approval to the compacts in June following the expiration of a 45-day review period.
But because wagering on sporting events and house-banked card and table games haven’t been authorized by the Legislature, any revenue from such games is prohibited, the court ruled.
“The court must, therefore, conclude Governor Stitt exceeded his authority in entering into the tribal gaming compacts with the Comanche Nation and Otoe-Missouria Tribes that included Class III gaming prohibited by the State-Tribal Gaming Act,” the court wrote.
Stitt spokesman Charlie Hannema says the governor’s office was reviewing the court’s decision.
In a dissent, Justice John Kane, one of two Stitt appointees on the court, said he would have dismissed the case because the tribes are “indispensable parties” but were not part of the case.
The lawsuit challenging the compacts was brought by Republican legislative leaders. Oklahoma Republican Attorney General Mike Hunter also said the compacts were unauthorized and had urged the U.S. Department of the Interior to reject them.
Meanwhile, the Republican governor remains locked in a legal dispute with several other Oklahoma-based tribal nations after three of the state’s most powerful tribes — the Cherokee, Chickasaw and Choctaw nations — sued the governor late last year. The key point of contention is whether the compacts signed 15 years ago automatically renewed on Jan. 1. Stitt’s position is that the compacts expired on Jan. 1, while the tribes contend all the requirements were met for the compacts to renew for another 15 years.