Interior approves UKB, Kialegee gaming compacts
TAHLEQUAH – Employing much of the same method it used to approve two tribal gaming compacts later struck down by the Oklahoma Supreme Court, the U.S. Department of the Interior gave a passive thumb-up on Aug. 20 to compacts between two other tribes in Oklahoma and Gov. Kevin Stitt.
Approval was achieved when the DOI allowed the compacts to sit in its to-do pile. After 45 days of non-action, the state’s compacts with the United Keetoowah Band and Kialegee Tribal Town were deemed approved by the agency.
“This is disappointing given that the Oklahoma Supreme Court has previously ruled that Gov. Stitt did not have the authority to unilaterally sign a gaming compact agreement with the Otoe Missouri and Comanche Tribes, and that the UKB and Kialegee Tribal Town do not currently have gaming operations in place,” Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said “We are reviewing, and we will continue benefitting all of Oklahoma. The Cherokee Nation has contributed $190 million in gaming fees to the state over the past 15 years, and our current compact will generate millions more for the good of public school classrooms, road projects, health care and strengthening our communities.”
Matthew Morgan, Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association chairman, added his voice to the chorus of dissatisfaction among several tribes in the state.
“It is confusing to us that the United States Department of the Interior has allowed the clock to run out and not taken action on these unlawful gaming agreements between Gov. Kevin Stitt and two tribes….” Morgan said. “The inaction is disappointing and will lead to more costly, time-consuming and needless litigation.”
The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled 7-1 on July 21 that Stitt overstepped his authority when he reached a casino gambling agreement with the Comanche Nation and Otoe-Missouria Tribe, saying they were “invalid under Oklahoma law.”
As it did with the UKB and Kialegee agreements, the DOI did not act on the Comanche and Otoe-Missouria compacts, resulting in approval after 45 days.
Stitt has argued the compacts are legal, partly because they don’t include sports book gambling. The state Supreme Court case regarding the compacts is pending, and that the state and tribes can begin operating under the compacts once they are published in the Federal Register.
“It is a great day as we prepare to partner with the state of Oklahoma in this Class III gaming compact that will be good for Logan County, the state and the United Keetoowah Band,” UKB Chief Joe Bunch said. “Our compact will help provide much needed resources to our tribe and surrounding communities as we continue to develop a robust economy and exercise our tribal sovereignty.”
In a statement, Stitt said the new compacts are not the “one-size-fits-all” agreements negotiated more than 15 years ago.
“Each new compact establishes clarity and certainty for each sovereign party; expands gaming opportunities for the KTT and UKB, keeping in mind the dynamic and evolving nature of the gaming industry; provides for meaningful consideration for the state’s fee structure for Class III games and table games for new locations; and strengthens compact transparency with clear auditing guidance and new dispute resolution provisions,” Stitt said.
According to reports, the KTT deal increases the basic tax on slots to 12% of gross revenue for the first two years, before raising it to 13% on revenue up to $300 million, then 14% for revenue between $300 million and $500 million, and 15% on revenue above this sum. Reports also state the UKB deal, sets a 12% gross gaming revenue tax on revenue up to $300 million, increasing to 13% for revenue up to $500 million, then to 15% on revenue above $500 million.
According to reports, the deals also give the KTT rights to open a casino in eastern Oklahoma County, and UKB a similar facility in Logan County.