Third Oklahoma Tribe Signs Gaming Compact

A third Oklahoma tribe has signed a new gaming compact with Gov. Kevin Stitt.

On Thursday, officials with the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians announced

the new compact, which would allow it conduct Class II and Class III gaming through 2035.

The Tahlequah-based tribe has not operated a gaming facility since the 2013 closure of

its bingo hall. Its council voted unanimously at a special meeting Saturday to approve the

compact.



“We thank Gov. Kevin Stitt and his administration for this monumental day and for their

leadership efforts in this compact,” UKB Principal Chief Joe Bunch said. “It is a grand day for

Keetoowahs and Native American tribes all over the country. It is a day when one of their own

partnered with Oklahoma in building a stronger economy through the avenues of retail, food

and beverage, hotel, hospitality and casino operations, all by a signing a Class III compact with

the state.


“This compact also presents an opportunity for the UKB to move forward and begin

increasing health, education and job opportunities for our tribal members and elders, as well as surrounding communities. After all, we know if communities are doing well, the state is also

doing well.”


Under the terms of the compact, the tribe would pay the state of Oklahoma an 18

percent exclusivity fee on non-house banked card and table games.

It would also implement a sliding scale on the exclusivity fees paid for Class III electronic

games, ranging from 12 to 15 percent, and require the tribe to have at least 80 percent of its

gaming revenue come from Class III games, including roulette and slot machines.

The compact also includes the governor’s baked in approval for the tribe to pursue

opening a casino in Logan County within a mile of a state or federal highway, such as Interstate 35. The central Oklahoma county is almost 90 minutes west of the area claimed by the tribe.


Section 20 of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act includes provisions for tribes to take

land into trust outside of their jurisdictional area if certain conditions are met, including

approval from state officials.


Among the specific exemptions for Oklahoma tribes in that section is documentation

that the land is either within the tribe’s historical boundaries or is contiguous to land already in

trust for that tribe.


However, federal legislation has been introduced by Reps. Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma) and

Markwayne Mullin (R-Oklahoma) to prevent the tribe from being able to take land into trust in

northeastern Oklahoma without the consent of the Cherokee Nation. Cole is a citizen of the

Chickasaw Nation while Mullin is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation.


The governor included similar off-reservation approval in the new compacts signed by

the Comanche Nation and the Otoe-Missouria Tribe in April. The Otoe-Missouria Tribe’s

compact specifically includes approval for a Logan County facility.

The central Oklahoma county currently only has one tribal casino: a 40-slot property

near Coyle operated by the Iowa Tribe.


Unlike the Comanche and Otoe-Missouria compacts signed earlier this year, the UKB

compact does not include provisions to allow for sports betting. However, it does include

language allowing for that to be revisited at a later date.


Currently, sports betting is not explicitly covered under Oklahoma’s Tribal Gaming Act.

Litigation is pending over whether the governor has the unilateral authority to sign compacts

that include games not already allowed under state law.


The new compacts must be approved by the Department of Interior before they take

effect. As per federal law, once submitted by the state, the federal government has 45 days to

take action on the compacts or they are automatically considered approved.





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