A judge has dismissed a federal lawsuit brought against two Oklahoma tribes over the legality of gaming compacts they signed with the governor in 2020.
U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly on Wednesday granted motions to dismiss a lawsuit brought against representatives of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians and the Kialegee Tribal Town over the Class III gaming compacts they signed with Gov. Kevin Stitt.
Four other Oklahoma tribes that filed the lawsuit in August 2020 did not have standing to challenge gaming compacts approved between the two tribes and Stitt, Kelly ruled.
The ruling leaves in place the portion of the lawsuit that challenged similar compacts approved by Stitt with the Comanche Nation and Otoe-Missouria Tribe of Indians.
The Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Citizen Band of Potawatomi tribal nations filed the lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Interior and representatives for the four compacting tribes — United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, Kialegee Tribal Town, Comanche Nation and Otoe-Missouria nations — after Stitt approved gaming deals with them.
The plaintiff tribes claimed those compacts were illegal because they didn’t follow the Oklahoma compacting legal process. The Oklahoma Supreme Court, in two separate rulings, backed those claims.
However, the U.S. Department of Interior approved the compacts through “inaction,” a provision that permits gaming deals to take effect without the Secretary of Interior taking any action on the issue for 45 days and publication in the Federal Register.
The new gaming compacts included several new aspects, including provisions that permitted sport betting for the Comanche and Otoe-Missouria tribes.
Kelly ruled that the four plaintiff tribes did not have standing to challenge the compacts signed between Stitt and the Kialegee Tribal Town and UKB tribes because the latter tribes currently don’t operate casinos.
Specifically, the judge ruled that the four larger tribes did not have standing to challenge the compacts involving the Kialegee Tribal Town and UKB tribes under illegal competition claims because the two tribes don’t operate casinos, despite announced plans to do so. The judge brushed aside claims the four tribes faced an “imminent” injury from the approval of the Kialegee Tribal Town and UKB compacts because they face a “substantial risk” of future illegal-competitive injury.
“Plaintiffs have plausibly alleged standing to bring counts one through eight of their operative complaint insofar as those counts challenge the Comanche Nation’s compact and the Otoe-Missouria Tribe’s compact,” the court said in its opinion. “But they have not plausibly alleged standing to bring counts one through eight of their operative complaint insofar as those counts challenge the United Keetoowah Band’s compact or the Kialegee Tribal Town’s compact.”