Oklahoma governor asks judge to rule casino gambling illegal

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt asked a federal judge late Wednesday to order tribal casinos across the state to stop offering most electronic and table games.

In the court filing, attorneys for Stitt also asked the judge to declare the tribes’ operation of Class III electronic games illegal and that a trust be set up for the state to receive its share of revenue from the tribes operation of the games while the matter is being litigated.

The filing was in response to a lawsuit filed by three of the state’s most powerful Native American tribes, the Chickasaw, Cherokee and Choctaw nations, seeking clarity over the gambling dispute with the governor.

Stitt contends the gaming compacts expired on Jan. 1 and that casino gambling after that date became illegal. Stitt has said he wants to renegotiate the compacts to give the state a larger slice of revenue.

In an editorial he released late Wednesday, Stitt said he wants a new compact to more equitably allocate fees among the more than 30 tribes that offer gaming. He also wants a requirement that vendors not exceed national market rates.

Stitt also announced that he intends to opt out of a contract with an out-of-state law firm he planned to hire to represent him and will instead hire two Oklahoma City-based firms to handle the case.

Stephen Greetham, senior counsel for the Chickasaw Nation, said in a statement he is pleased the governor has not sought to delay the proceedings.

“We are reviewing the pleading his lawyers filed on his behalf and look forward to learning what legal basis he will claim to justify the uncertainty he has endeavored to create,” Greetham said.

Under the existing compacts, approved by Oklahoma voters in 2004, tribes pay the state “exclusivity fees” between 4% and 10% on gambling revenue in exchange for the exclusive right to operate casinos. Those fees generated nearly $139 million for the state in the 2018 fiscal year, most of it earmarked for education, on roughly $2.3 billion in revenue from games covered under the compacts.

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