Oklahoma attorney general: Governor overstepped authority

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt exceeded his legal authority when he reached an agreement with two Native American tribes to allow sports and the federal government should reject the proposals, said Attorney General Mike Hunter on Tuesday.

In a formal opinion and in a letter to the US Interior Secretary Hunter, a Republican colleague, he wrote that the governor has no authority to authorize a form of gambling currently prohibited by state law.

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“As the governor has no authority to & # 39; celebrate & # 39; the agreements he sent you, those agreements do not meet the requirements of the (Indian Gaming Regulations Act) to constitute a valid gambling pact under federal law, ”wrote Hunter to the US Secretary of State. the interior David Berhardt.

Stitt announced last month that he signed new gaming pacts with the Otoe-Missouria Tribe and the Comanche Nation that would authorize the two tribes to build new casinos, increase the state's share of the casinos' revenue and allow for sports gaming.

But the governor remains locked in a legal dispute over playing with ten other Oklahoma tribes, who say his deal with the state has been automatically renewed for another 15-year period. Stitt maintains the expired contracts on January 1. A federal judge in the case ordered mediation from both sides.

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The governor's office did not immediately respond to Hunter's letter and opinion.

The head of the Oklahoma Indian Gambling Commission praised Hunter in a statement for his "clear analysis of the law".

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“Oklahoma and the tribes deserve better than the carelessness that Governor Stitt brought to the table, and the attorney general's analysis encourages us to be able to reestablish the kind of tribal state commitment that complies with the law and serves everyone we do well, ”said Matt Morgan, president of OIGA.

Casino gambling has become a major money generator for Oklahoma-based Native American tribes, after having the exclusive right to operate casinos under a voter-approved pact with the state 15 years ago. Dozens of casinos, including several brilliant Las Vegas-scale complexes, generate more than $ 2 billion a year, with $ 150 million earmarked for state coffers last year, the majority for public schools.

All casinos in the state have been closed since March 23, amid the spread of the coronavirus, depriving tribal nations and the state of the necessary revenue.

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Follow Sean Murphy on Twitter: https://twitter.com/apseanmurphy

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