Government , Business , Legal

Judge orders mediation for five tribes and Oklahoma Governor

Photo caption: Osage Casino patrons play roulette, one of several Class III table games under scrutiny after Gov. Kevin Stitt announced to tribes in a newspaper editorial he wanted more money in exclusivity fees. Osage News File Photo

OKLAHOMA CITY — A mediator may determine the fate of Oklahoma’s tribal gaming compacts.

After a pre-trial hearing on Feb. 10, Judge Timothy DeGuisti ordered Gov. Kevin Stitt and five Oklahoma tribes to pursue mediation in dueling lawsuits over the status of the model state-tribal gaming compact.

Under the terms of Judge DeGuisti’s order, the tribes and Gov. Stitt are each to submit the names of three potential mediators by Feb. 14. The court will select a mediator with the understanding that most, if not all of the talks to be completed by March 31.

Additionally, under the terms of Judge DeGuisti’s order, neither Gov. Stitt nor any of the involved tribes are allowed to publicly discuss the mediation process without going through the court first.

The Cherokee, Choctaw and Chickasaw nations filed a lawsuit against Gov. Stitt on New Year’s Eve 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.

Motions to intervene from the Citizen Potawatomi Nation and Muscogee (Creek) Nation were approved on Feb. 6. As part of Judge DeGuisti’s Feb. 10 order, Feb. 14 is the deadline for intervention motions from any other tribes that want to be part of the litigation.

The governor’s office filed a countersuit on Jan. 22, seeking a declaratory judgment that the compact expired on New Year’s Eve and that all Class III gaming is illegal until a new compact is in place.

Gov. Stitt’s rebuttal also asks that revenue generated from those games after Jan. 1 be put into a trust. Class III table games, including blackjack, poker, craps and roulette, are not mentioned in the injunction request.

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 electronic gaming conducted after that date is illegal.