Gov. Kevin Stitt hires Perkins Coie for gaming compact negotiations

OKLAHOMA CITY — With the state’s attorney general no longer participating, Gov. Kevin Stitt has brought in outside counsel to help with gaming compact talks.

On Jan. 3, Gov. Stitt’s office formally announced its retention of Perkins Coie as legal counsel moving forward with gaming compact negotiations. Stitt announced his intention to bring in out of state counsel in December after Attorney General Mike Hunter withdrew from compact talks.

The firm has been involved in several gaming law cases in recent years that were ultimately lost by tribes, including the Pueblo of Pojoaque’s gaming compact dispute with the state of New Mexico. After the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the Bureau of Indian Affairs from intervening on the pueblo’s behalf, Pojoaque leadership eventually signed off on a compact in August 2017 that included an exclusivity fee increase from 8 percent to 10.75 percent.

Attorneys with Perkins Coie were also involved in the 2017 U.S. Supreme Court case Lewis v. Clarke, which held that a tribe’s sovereign immunity does not extend to its employees if sued for actions taken while on the job.

Perkins Coie will also be the state’s counsel of record in a federal lawsuit filed by Oklahoma’s three largest gaming tribes.

On New Year’s Eve, the Cherokee, Chickasaw and Choctaw nations filed suit against Gov. Stitt in the Western District of Oklahoma, asking for a declaratory judgment that the state-tribal model gaming compact automatically renewed on New Year’s Day.

Seeking higher exclusivity fees from the 30-plus gaming tribes across Oklahoma, Gov. Stitt has publicly maintained that the compacts expired on New Year’s Eve and that any Class III gaming conducted after that date, such as craps and roulette, is illegal. However, tribal casinos across the state, including Osage Casinos, conducted business as usual on New Year’s Day.

After the lawsuit was filed, Gov. Stitt’s office announced that it had signed gaming compact extensions with the Wetumka-based Kialegee Tribal Town and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, which is headquartered in Tahlequah. Neither tribe currently operates a casino.

As of Jan. 3, Judge Timothy DeGuisti has not scheduled any court dates in the tribes’ lawsuit.