TULSA, Okla. — Is gambling now illegal in Oklahoma? That's a question many are asking as the gaming compact dispute between Governor Kevin Stitt and Native American tribes continues.
The governor has said the agreement expires today, making class III gaming illegal to play.
However, tribes think differently.
With the pull of a slot machine lever as the clock strikes midnight on the new year, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr. is taking a stand against the state of Oklahoma. The act is considered illegal by those who claim the gaming compact is expired. However, the tribes say it was automatically renewed with the new year. They’re now asking a federal judge to decide with a lawsuit filed Tuesday.
“Why would we want to end this?" Chief Hoskin said. "Why would we want, at the stroke of midnight, to bring this all to an end? I think everybody in the state understands this needs to continue. Just about everyone gets that.”
The Chickasaw, Cherokee and Choctaw Nations filed the lawsuit. In a statement, Governor Kevin Stitt said he was disappointed the tribes did not accept the state’s offer to resolve the dispute out of court. Chief Hoskin said he’s willing to talk reasonably about the gaming compact but first wants the state to acknowledge it was renewed and did not end.
“At some point in 2020, we will get past this deadline that he set that we’ve just blown right through," Chief Hoskin said. "And we’ll get down to the business the people expect.”
Principal Chief Hoskin said as far as their casinos go, business is operating as usual. Now, they will proceed with the lawsuit.
“We’re asking a very simple question," he said. "We’re asking a federal judge to answer the question, does the compact renew? We believe it renews, outside observers believe it renews, every tribal leader in the state believes it renews. The governor does not. And that’s why we had to go into federal court.”
Two tribes, the Kialegee Tribal Town and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians both signed an eight-month compact extension to keep negotiating.
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