Mar 18, 2020, 8:26 pm
Oklahoma's expansion of the lottery and other forms of gaming violates the compacts tribes have with the state, the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes said in a court brief filed Tuesday.
Tribes sued Gov. Kevin Stitt on Dec. 31, alleging the gaming compacts automatically renewed. A federal judge has ordered mediation over whether the compacts expired Jan. 1, as Stitt believes, and that continued operation of Class III gaming is now illegal.
The governor is seeking to increase the exclusivity fees tribes pay the state in exchange for the right to operate Class III gaming, which includes slot machines, roulette and craps. Last year those fees, between 4% and 10%, amounted to $150 million.
Tribes have continued to operate Class III gaming and remit fees to the state.
A federal judge hearing the case ordered the sides into mediation. The deadline for that mediation has been extended for two month because of the current COVID-19 outbreak.
The filing late Tuesday by the Anadarko-based Wichita and Affiliated Tribes argues the mobile and internet-based "second-chance promotions" authorized by the Oklahoma Lottery Commission in 2018 violate the gaming compacts the state has with multiple tribes. Users are allowed to participate from within Indian country, the brief said.
The Oklahoma Lottery Commission, an arm of the state, is unlawfully conducting gaming in Indian country in violation of federal law and the new electronic game violates the exclusivity guaranteed to tribes under the compacts, the brief said.
The brief also alleges that state action to expand gaming to include ball and dice games served as a trigger to automatically renew the compacts, as well as when the state allowed liquor stores to become lottery retailers.
According to the brief, the compact says that in exchange for the substantial exclusivity granted the tribes, the tribes will make payments to the state and that the payments will continue only for so long as the state does not violate that exclusivity.
The state has violated the compact's exclusivity provisions by permitting additional forms of gaming and changing its laws to permit additional electronic gaming, the brief said.
The Wichita tribe is entitled to damages from the state for the violations, the brief said.
The tribe is seeking a declaration that the compacts automatically renewed Jan. 1 and that it is allowed to continue gaming operations.
Because the state has violated the exclusivity provisions of the compact by allowing additional forms of gaming, the Wichita Tribe is under no legal obligation to continue paying exclusivity fees to the state, the brief said.
"Our support for education has not wavered — not the Wichita Tribes' and not the other tribes I've talked to, but if the violations of our compact continue, we may have no choice but to redirect our payments to the local schools near us," Terri Parton, president of the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes, said in a news release. "At least then we will know the money will make it to the classroom where our children and our neighbors' children need it most."
The Wichita and Affiliated Tribes consist of about 3,400 members. Its reservation is north of Anadarko.
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