GOV. STITT: “It has become evident that the needs of the Oklahoma tribes vary significantly… tribes in Oklahoma are not united on the issue of gaming.”
Governor Kevin Stitt today held a press conference to announce the state is offering an extension of the tribal gaming compacts, set to expire Jan. 1, 2020. The Governor also provided an update on the state of gaming compact negotiations. His remarks, as prepared for delivery, are copied below:
As Prepared for Delivery:
Thank you for joining me today. We are 18 days away from the expiration of the state’s gaming compacts with Oklahoma’s tribes. As we enter a very narrow time frame, I want to provide you with a brief update.
Since my last press conference, I have met with a group of tribal leaders who want to negotiate a new compact. They expressed several concerns about the one currently in place, and the state wants to address these concerns as best it can to ensure the continued success of all tribes within the state.
The Attorney General has also met with a different group of tribal leaders, working diligently to address the issue of fees and to discuss the many opportunities to improve and expand their operations to match trends emerging in other states.
From our negotiations, it has become evident that the needs of the Oklahoma tribes are not monolithic, but vary significantly. Despite what the TV commercials and newspaper ads say, tribes in Oklahoma are not united on the issue of gaming in Oklahoma.
The state cannot reach an agreement that addresses the needs of every tribe – and the state – in the next 18 days. If we do not take expedited action, however, all class III gaming activity will be illegal as of January 1, 2020, creating legal uncertainty for Oklahoma tribes, those who conduct business with casinos, and casino patrons. We cannot put Oklahomans in that position. To protect hard-working Oklahomans and tribal members employed at the more than 100 casinos across the state, I am announcing today that the state of Oklahoma will be requesting tribal leaders to join me in signing an extension to the gaming compact.
The language in the extension will allow each side, who signs on to the extension, to retain their legal positions. I want business to continue as usual while we resolve this dispute. As we approach the holidays and enter into 2020, I want banks, alcohol vendors, food vendors, entertainers, and workers to have certainty and assurance that they can continue to engage in business while the state works to negotiate in good faith with the tribes about the future of the casino industry.
I also want to ensure that the revenues the state receives under the current compacts continue to be available to fund the essential governmental services the state provides to all Oklahomans.
It will be very important that tribal leaders join me in signing this extension, out of abundance of caution. We do not want gaming to be illegal; and we do not want vendors to be operating illegally.
The only way to ensure that isn’t the case is for state and tribal leaders to agree to an extension. The state will be making a generous offer with this extension, with no ask for anything in return.
With different positions on the compacts emerging among Oklahoma’s tribes, and as the state offers an extension, I have also notified the Attorney General that I will be resuming direct negotiations with tribal leaders to ensure that the state takes a unified approach that is fair to all tribes engaged in gaming.
For the past four months, the Attorney General has been a strong representative for the state as the lead negotiator on gaming compacts. I will continue to depend on Mike Hunter’s counsel and his partnership as the state’s attorney. We both want what is best for the state of Oklahoma and we both want a resolution that creates a win-win for the people of Oklahoma and for all tribes in the state.
As we enter this next phase, it is important for me to resume my travels around the state to meet with tribal leaders individually. When I took office, I made visits during the Legislative session to tribal headquarters and communities to see their business operations, to tour storm damage, and to build relationships with tribal leaders. In July and August, I made several visits to tribal headquarters and communities to specifically discuss gaming compacts.
As we approach the end of the year, I will be reaching out to meet with as many tribal leaders as possible to discuss the extension and next steps on negotiation. The state of Oklahoma wants to settle this in a reasonable fashion, and as governor of this great state, I am committed to getting a win-win for all 4 million Oklahomans and our tribal partners.