- Governor Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma agreed in late April to allow Tribal sports betting in the state under new compacts.
- Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter says the Governor cannot authorize this as sports betting needs to be legal on a state level first.
OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt created new Tribal gaming compacts that include legal sportsbooks but that inclusion is now being contested by Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter.
According to Hunter, the Governor does not have the authority to allow the Tribes to offer sports betting in Oklahoma if it is not already a legal pastime in the state.
For it to be properly added to the newly signed Tribal gaming compacts, it would first need to pass through the House and Senate to have sportsbooks become legal statewide before being offered anywhere else.
Words From Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter
On Tuesday, Hunter wrote an opinion statement to the Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat and House Speaker Charles McCall to discuss his stance on the idea of sports betting being offered by the Tribes.
“The Governor’s authority to negotiate compacts with Indian tribes without the need to secure later approval by the Legislature provided that any such compacts conform to (and not conflict with) the laws duly enacted by the legislative branch. The Governor currently lacks the authority to bind the State to the compacts he recently negotiated with the Comanche Nation and the Otoe-Missouria Tribe. These compacts purport to grant the State’s consent to conduct gambling activities that are prohibited by state criminal law.”
Following his opinion statement, he then wrote a letter to the Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt.
The Attorney General would like any new Tribal gaming compacts drawn up by Governor Stitt to be rejected by the Secretary on the merit that Oklahoma cannot legally allow sportsbooks at Tribal establishments due to the state’s law prohibiting sports betting at this time.
“Because the Governor lacks authority to “enter into” the agreements he has sent to you, those agreements fail to meet the requirements of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) to constitute a valid gaming compact under federal law,” wrote Attorney General Hunter. “How a state enters into a gaming compact with a tribe, including whether the Governor may do so unilaterally in contravention of state statute, is a core concern of the state’s constitutional structure and is therefore a matter of state law.”
The Tribal Gaming Compacts In Question
Governor Stitt signed an agreement with the Otoe-Missouria and Comanche Nation for new gaming compacts that allowed for sports betting in late April.
The agreement would tax sports betting beyond the original gaming tax of 4%-6% which would have the state profit more from Tribal gaming activities. It authorized the Tribes to open both retail and mobile sports betting platforms.
The only thing that was prohibited was the wagering on collegiate sports.
Will Oklahoma Have Tribal Legal Sports Betting?
While the Attorney General of the state continues to go through various outlets to have the new agreements be rejected, the issue is not as cut and dry as it would appear to be.
Oklahoma state law only allows the Governor to greenlight activities with the Tribes that are legal within the state and sports betting is not one of them.
From that point of view, it would seem the answer is clear as to the fact that the Tribes will not be able to open up sportsbooks. However, the Tribes themselves have a different stance on the issue.
“Our compacts are legal and were negotiated in good faith. The political fight between the governor and the attorney general over sports betting is not our concern and does not impact the legality of the compacts. We look forward to approval of the compacts, which are good for our tribal members, our local communities and the state as a whole,” said Comanche Nation Chairman William Nelson, Sr. and Otoe-Missouria Tribe Chairman John R. Shotton in a joint statement after learning of the Attorney General’s views.
Currently, there are two opposing sides to this topic. Until Oklahoma responds to the Attorney General’s remarks, the Tribes will go on with their new gaming compacts that allow legal sports betting.
Sportsbooks in the Sooner State have suddenly become a gray area and what the future holds on the issue is anyone’s guess at this point.
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Christina has been writing for as long as she can remember and does dedicated research on the newly regulated sports betting market. She comes from a family of sports lovers that engage in friendly bets from time to time. During the winter months, you can find Christina baking cookies and beating the entire staff at Mario Kart…the N64 version of course.