Community , Government

Osage Congress passes resolution rejecting Gov. Stitt’s proposal to renegotiate gaming compacts

On Day 6 of the 2019 Tzi-Zho Session, the Sixth Osage Nation Congress unanimously approved a resolution rejecting Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt’s proposal to renegotiate the tribe’s gaming compact with the possible intent to increase fees paid to the state.

The 12-member Congress passed ONCR 19-19 (sponsored by Congressman Eli Potts) as one of the first legislative items approved in the 24-day fall session on Sept. 9. Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear also signed the resolution on Sept. 11.

The resolution’s passage comes after state and national news outlets also reported on Stitt’s proposal announced in a Tulsa World op-ed earlier this summer. At issue in the gaming compacts with the Nation and other tribes with gaming businesses are the exclusivity rates the tribes pay the state for operating Class III gaming machines as provided by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Stitt has stated he believes the gaming compacts should be renegotiated and the exclusivity fees could be subject to increases.

Standing Bear, along with nearly 30 tribal leaders, signed a July 23 Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association letter standing in response to Stitt’s proposal. According to the letter, the signed tribal leaders are intending “to stand united in response” to the announced gaming compact renegotiations, as well as Stitt’s argument that the gaming compacts will expire on Dec. 31.

The letter says the signed tribal leaders believe: “The present gaming compact(s) will automatically renew on Jan. 1, 2020; The rates under the present gaming compact should not change. They represent promises made by the State of Oklahoma and the tribes. Promises we intend to fulfill now and in the future and we expect the state to do the same.”

According to ONCR 19-19, the Nation “strongly disagrees with Gov. Stitt’s interpretation and position on the terms of the current Model Gaming Compact. Now, therefore it be resolved that the (ON) Congress rejects Gov. Stitt’s claim that the Gaming Compact between the Osage Nation and the State of Oklahoma must be renegotiated and will stand with the other Tribes of Oklahoma who have expressed the same position through the Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes and through the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association. 

In related news, The Oklahoman reported Oklahoma State Attorney General Mike Hunter’s office has selected Michigan law firm Dykema Gossett to help represent the state in the gaming compact negotiations. A Hunter spokesperson told the newspaper the outside law firm was selected because of their experience in tribal negotiations.

According to the law firm’s website, Dykema’s attorneys “have played key roles in establishing tribal and commercial casino gaming in Michigan and have been at the forefront of gaming developments in other new gaming jurisdictions. In the tribal arena, Dykema was at the forefront in Michigan, playing a lead role in multitribal compact negotiations that resulted in the state’s first tribal-gaming compacts in 1993.”

The Tzi-Zho Session stretches into the first week of October. Congressional meeting notices and agendas for sessions and committee meetings are posted online to the Legislative Branch calendar at: www.osagenation-nsn.gov/who-we-are/congress-legislative-branch/calendar