Mediation ordered in tribes’ request for compact interpretation
OKLAHOMA CITY – A federal court has ordered mediation in the case of the Cherokee Nation and four other tribal governments in Oklahoma that requested a legal determination of whether the tribes’ gaming compacts with the state have expired.
After meeting with counsel for both sides on Feb. 7, Chief Judge Timothy D. DeGiusti of the U.S. District Court for the Western District issued the order on Feb. 10.
The order does not allow either side to publicly discuss details of the arbitration without permission from the court, stating further that “no party may make any public statement, media release, or other comment for public broadcast regarding the status or conduct of the mediation or the characterization of any party’s position therein without prior leave of the Court.”
Both sides must submit a list of three possible mediators for consideration by the court, which will request further names if none are deemed acceptable. Within 21 days of naming a mediator, the parties must submit a report on the status of the mediation.
The order also states that the mediation should be complete or nearly complete by March 31 and calls it a “firm deadline,” though an extension is still possible. The expense of the mediator will be shared by both sides.
Under the compact, the tribes pay the state 4% to 10% of revenue to exclusively offer Class III gaming, which includes slot machines, craps and roulette.
The tribes’ suit called for the court to declare that the compact renewed on Jan. 1 as stated in its Part 15.B., which states: “This Compact shall have a term which will expire on January 1, 2020, and at that time, if organization licensees or others are authorized to conduct electronic gaming in any form other than pari-mutuel wagering on live horse racing pursuant to any governmental action of the state or court order following the effective date of this Compact, the Compact shall automatically renew for successive additional fifteen-year terms.”
A federal lawsuit filed by the office of Gov. Kevin Stitt has asked the courts to declare all Class III gaming illegal in Oklahoma without a renegotiated compact. The tribes maintain that all claims of the compact expiring are false, and they have not acknowledged any deadlines or time limits claimed by Stitt. The tribes also say neither party can force the other into renegotiating the agreement. The tribes continue to offer Class III gaming at their respective casinos.