Horse racing organizations oppose Kialegee casino
OKLAHOMA CITY – While the Oklahoma Supreme Court reviews whether two tribal gaming compacts are valid, the Thoroughbred Racing Association of Oklahoma and Oklahoma Quarter Horse Racing Association have announced their opposition to a proposed casino under consideration by one of the tribes.
The horse racing organizations sent letters to Gov. Kevin Stitt and David Bernhardt, the U.S. Department of the Interior secretary, stating their beliefs that a Kialegee Tribal Town casino in eastern Oklahoma County would financially undermine Remington Park.
“The horse racing industry will not sit idly by and allow such actions to negatively impact the progress made since the passage of the … Compact,” the organizations said, further claiming that the addition of electronic gaming at tribally owned tracks had helped keep Oklahoma horse racing in business.
The organizations said they were “gravely concerned” about the potential impact of a casino in Oklahoma County.
“The authorization of an additional gaming facility in Oklahoma County will threaten economic ability of the Oklahoma Horse Industry to succeed in long-term,” the letters state.
In the compact he signed with the KTT – now being challenged in the Oklahoma Supreme Court – Stitt agreed to the tribe building a casino in eastern Oklahoma County.
Though the compacts with the KTT and the United Keetoowah Band were federally approved when the Interior allowed a 45-day window to elapse without action, they are being challenged at the state level by Oklahoma lawmakers.
Stitt’s attorneys have argued that his UKB and KTT agreements are in force because they do not mention the games found illegal by the court in its Aug. 10 ruling against the Otoe-Missouria and Comanche nations compacts.
The land being suggested for a KTT casino is not in trust. A coalition of tribes that includes the Cherokee Nation has suggested it would not support a casino approved by the compact. The tribes say the compacts automatically renewed at the beginning of 2020, and a federal judge ruled in their favor on July 28.
On Aug. 27, Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, and House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court to deny Stitt’s request to clarify the ruling that overturned the compacts with the Comanche and Otoe-Missouria.
In a 7-1 decision on July 21, the court determined the compacts were “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, but because such games haven’t been authorized by the Legislature, the court said any revenue from such games is prohibited.
Stitt is requesting legal clarification of whether the Comanche and Otoe-Missouri compacts might address gaming that could later be legalized in Oklahoma, and whether the compacts might be legal if the offending games were removed from the agreements.
The governor’s brief claimed “the expectation of the parties was clearly that any unenforceable provision be excised and that the remainder of the compacts be enforced” and the Oklahoma Supreme Court “is silent on whether the unenforceable provisions related to the scope of the covered games are severable.”
The Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Citizen Potawatomie nations also have filed suit against Stitt, Bernhardt, the Comanche Nation and the Otoe-Missouria Tribe. The plaintiffs claim Stitt’s agreements initially allow lower fee percentages for the Comanche and Otoe-Missouria than other tribes pay under their compacts. All Oklahoma tribes agreed to the same exclusivity terms that went into effect in 2005.