Oklahoma AG hires outside attorneys on gambling negotiations

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
09/20/2019 12:00 PM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter speaks on Sept. 12 during a news conference in Oklahoma City. Hunter has agreed to pay a Michigan law firm up to $250,000 to help represent the state in negotiations with Oklahoma-based Native American tribes over compacts that allow gambling. Hunter’s office signed the agreement with Ann Arbor-based law firm Dykema Gossett. SUE OGROCKI/ASSOCIATED PRESS
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Oklahoma’s attorney general has agreed to pay a Michigan law firm up to $250,000 to help represent the state in negotiations with Oklahoma-based Native American tribes over compacts that allow gambling.

Republican Mike Hunter’s office signed the agreement in September with the national law firm Dykema Gossett. A Hunter spokesman said Sept. 13 the outside attorneys were necessary because of their experience in tribal negotiations.

“When dealing with issues as complex as compact negotiations, it is important to have experts with experience in this area,” said Hunter spokesman Alex Gerszewski. “Dykema has a proven record of success in tribal compact and gaming negotiations. We believe with their help, we can achieve a successful outcome for both the state and our tribal partners.”

Discussions between the state and the tribes got off to a rocky start this summer when new Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt said he wanted to renegotiate the deals, suggesting the state should get a larger share of gambling revenue.

Tribal leaders have suggested they are open to renegotiating some of the terms, but the two sides disagree over whether the existing compacts automatically renew on Jan. 1.

Oklahoma’s current gambling compacts call for the tribes to pay the state between 4% and 10% of a casino’s net revenue in “exclusivity fees.” Those fees generated nearly $139 million in payments to the state last year on roughly $2.3 billion in revenue from games covered under the compacts. Non-tribal commercial operators are prohibited under the compacts from allowing gambling in Oklahoma, although a certain number of electronic gambling machines are allowed at horse racetracks.

The Oklahoman newspaper first reported on the state’s contract with Dykema.

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