Business , Legal

Standing Bear united with Osage Congress: gaming compacts renew on Jan. 1

Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear said a recent offer from Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter was not enough to show him or show the Osage Congress they should take action.

Standing Bear and ON Attorney General Clint Patterson were among the 200 tribal leaders who attended an Oct. 28 gaming compact meeting in Shawnee at the Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s Grand Casino Hotel & Resort.

The meeting began at 9 a.m. for the tribal leaders, going paragraph by paragraph of the current gaming compact with the tribes’ attorneys in preparation for the meeting with Hunter. Hunter arrived at 1:30 p.m. and the meeting was over by 3 p.m. Standing Bear said Hunter had a slide show presentation for the tribes but didn’t get past the first slide.

He offered a binding arbitration agreement to the tribal leaders on the condition they waive their sovereign immunity and that whatever is decided is enforceable in court, Standing Bear said.

“I told Hunter that I would have to take the offer to the Osage Congress, but I didn’t think the Osage Congress would pass that,” Standing Bear said.

A binding arbitration agreement is a private, less formal way to bypass traditional litigation. Hunter said the tribes could pick one arbitrator to sit on the three-person panel, the state would pick the second, and then both sides would select the third arbitrator.

The main conflict between the tribes and the state is the disagreement that the 15-year-old gaming compacts either end or renew on Jan. 1, 2020. It is the opinion of the Nation and the other 35 gaming tribes of Oklahoma that they renew on Jan. 1.

“I have a resolution of the Osage legislature (ONCR 19-19) which is very clear that we consider the rollover to be a fact of the compact and it is not in doubt. We reject the governor’s interpretation,” Standing Bear said. “Now, that means this is not just a legal question anymore, it is now a political question and the governor made it that way.”

Standing Bear said tribal leaders called for adjournment and he asked if they could be given a copy of Hunter’s presentation since he had only shown the first slide.

“He [Hunter] decided he was not going to share the rest of his presentation with us and he declined to give us a copy. But everybody was very respectful to each other,” Standing Bear said.

On Nov. 5, the tribes sent a formal letter rejecting Hunter’s arbitration proposal, according to the Tulsa World.

In the fiscal year 2018, tribes paid nearly $139 million in gaming exclusivity fees to the state, a 3.48 percent increase over the fiscal year 2017, according to the Tulsa World.