Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt’s office had to pay more than $ 2 million in legal and other fees associated with its dispute with the state’s tribes over the extension of their gambling pacts.
The invoices for the fees were provided by the Oklahoma Office of Management and Business Services in response to a request from the local news outlet. Tulsa world. They showed that the state was billed for their court appearances, legal investigations and analysis, legal correspondence, document reviews, meetings and more.
The amount listed above includes the fees from a federal lawsuit filed by the Oklahoma tribes against Governor Stitt earlier this year. The demand I was looking for a declaratory sentence that the tribe’s 15-year pacts with Oklahoma, which were scheduled to expire on January 1, 2020, were automatically renewed for another 15 years.
Covenants offer tribes the exclusive right to operate class III games (slot machines) in the state.
The dispute between Governor Stitt and tribal leaders began to form in the summer of 2019 when the top state official said the old covenants would expire on January 1 and that new, higher exclusivity rates should be negotiated. The tribes pay between 4% and 10% for their exclusivity on slot machines under the terms of their old pacts with the state.
The tribal chiefs said they were willing to discuss new fees, but wanted the governor to recognize the automatic renewal of covenants.
Legal fees were funded by annual tribal contributions
Tulsa World reported that most of the funding for legal fees came from annual and one-time fees that the state charges the tribes that run casinos for the supervision and administration of the pacts. These fees are collected into a Tribal Gaming Compliance Fund.
In July, Chief Judge for the Western District of Oklahoma, Timothy DeGuisti, ruled that the tribal covenants were renewed at the beginning of the year. Governor Stitt said in October that he would not appeal the ruling, but believed that “the people of Oklahoma will demand fair treatment that benefits the four million people of Oklahoma.”
Earlier this year, state legislative leaders filed two lawsuits in Oklahoma Supreme Court arguing that Governor Stitt had exceeded his power by authorizing gambling pacts with various tribes that authorized activities not currently permitted by state law. These activities included sports betting and e-sports contests, as well as table games.
Lawmakers won one of the lawsuits, the other is pending. The fees associated with the two lawsuits were also included in the $ 2 million total mentioned above.
The publication of the expenses resulted in another irritable exchange between Governor Stitt and the tribes. A spokesman for the governor said that “the expenses incurred were the result of lawsuits brought against the governor, not by him” and that the chief state official is focused on “protecting the best interest of the state and the cost of litigation pales in comparison to what is at stake. “
Matthew L. Morgan, president of the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association, said that “in addition to wasting thousands of hours and valuable court time, Governor Stitt also spent more than $ 2 million of public funds in their failed legal actions against sovereign tribal nations in their claim, the compact gaming model had expired. “