4 tribes sue over Oklahoma gambling compacts with 2 others

Court Watch

Four Oklahoma tribes are asking a federal court to void gambling compacts between the state of Oklahoma and two other tribes ? agreements that the Oklahoma State Supreme Court recently invalidated.

The Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Citizen Potawatomie Nations filed a lawsuit Friday in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., asking for a declaration that the U.S. Department of Interior violated federal law by allowing the agreements Gov. Kevin Stitt signed with the Comanche Nation and the Otoe-Missouira Tribe to take effect.

“While the Oklahoma Supreme Court has declared those agreements invalid under Oklahoma law, their validity under Federal law must also be addressed to avoid damage to the integrity of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act,” attorneys for the tribes said in a statement. “The Tribes filed this suit to protect IGRA’s established framework and the Tribal operations conducted under it.”

Officials with the Department of Interior, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the governor’s office did not immediately respond to request for comment Saturday. The lawsuit was first reported by The Oklahoman.

The chairman of the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association, Matthew Morgan, said the group supports the tribes’ efforts.

“As we have stated from the beginning, Governor Stitt never had the legal authority to enter into these gaming agreements,” Morgan said in a statement. “It is sad that Governor Stitt has placed the tribal governments in this position.”

Oklahoma’s high court ruled July 21 that Stitt overstepped his authority. The deals would have allowed the Comanche Nation and the Otoe-Missouira Tribe to offer wagering on sporting events and house-banked card and table games.

Republican state Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat and Republican House Speaker Charles McCall filed that lawsuit and are also seeking to invalidate compacts that the Republican governor signed with the Kialegee Tribal Town and Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians. Attorneys for the governor filed a brief in state court this past week arguing that their compacts are valid because they do not include sports betting or house-banked games.

The lawsuit “is the latest in a series of efforts by legislators to wrest away the executive authority of the governor to negotiate and enter into compacts with Indian Tribes and improperly vest such powers solely to the legislative in the legislative branch,” according to the brief filed Tuesday.

Treat and McCall allege Stitt ignored state law requiring gambling compacts be approved by the Legislature.

On July 28, a federal judge ruled that Oklahoma’s gambling compacts with the Cherokee, Choctaw and Chickaw nations signed 15 years ago automatically renewed on Jan. 1. Stitt had argued that the compacts had expired.

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