- Ingvard Ashby
Last year, the tribal nations operating Oklahoma’s more than 100 casinos paid $139 million to the state in “exclusivity fees,” according to Associated Press, but Gov. Kevin “Never Count Your Money When You’re Sitting at the Table” Stitt wants to raise the stakes. The fees — currently 4-10 percent of the casinos’ net revenue paid for the right to operate exclusively in the state — were negotiated between the state and tribes in 2004 following the passage of a ballot measure legalizing slot machines, poker, blackjack and other games of chance. In a July Tulsa World op-ed, Stitt wrote that this agreement expires on Jan. 1 and must be renegotiated to reflect the current realities of Oklahoma’s gaming industry, which made more than $2 billion last year and employs thousands of people throughout the state.
On Oct. 28, new negotiations began, but the tribal nations in a closed-door meeting with Attorney General Mike Hunter at Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s Grand Casino Hotel & Resort in Shawnee had a fundamental disagreement with Stitt’s negotiation tactics before numbers could be discussed.
“The 35 tribal nations with gaming compacts are unified in their position that the agreements automatically renew after Jan. 1 if an agreement can’t be reached on new terms, and that that issue must be resolved before negotiations can begin,” Associated Press reported.
Former governor Brad Henry, who was in office from 2003-2011 (i.e., during the original negotiations) told Tulsa World he thought at the time the government would benefit if the compacts renewed automatically because he was afraid the tribes would want to negotiate lower rates.
Anyone confused about why Native Americans might be wary of the government changing the terms of a previously negotiated agreement should go ahead and Google “Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868.”