Oklahoma Supreme Court rejects tribal gaming compacts

Oklahoma tribal gaming compacts rejected

Two tribal gaming compacts in Oklahoma that included sports betting have been blocked by the state’s Supreme Court

The compacts for the Otoe-Missouria and Comanche Nation tribes were signed by Governor Kevin Stitt in April and would have included sports betting among other games.  

This prompted disagreement from both other tribes and state officials, with it being argued that Stitt didn’t have the authority to authorise sports betting – which is currently illegal in the state. 

Otoe-Missouria and the Comanche Nation have both had their memberships for the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association (OIGA) suspended until at least the end of this year. 

Sports betting in Oklahoma back to square one 

This all started at the beginning of 2020, when – to the disagreement of the state’s tribes – Stitt said that they each had to re-negotiate their recently-expired gaming compacts. The Governor argued that they expired after 15 years, while the tribes believed that they renewed automatically. 

Following this, the two previously-mentioned tribes put forward separate ones that would permit “event wagering” – including sports betting. Stitt subsequently signed these, which prompted a lawsuit from Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat and House Speaker Charles McCall. They both argued that the State Governor had exercised authority above what he is allowed to. 

Others in the state, such as Attorney General Mike Hunter, echoed Treat and McCall’s thoughts. 

On Tuesday, the court agreed with them. They decided that Stitt didn’t have the authority “to bind the State with respect to the new tribal gaming compacts with the Comanche Nation and Otoe-Missouria Tribes.”

The ruling also determined that Stitt undermined Oklahoman state legislature, which does not permit some of the games involved in the compacts. 

How has this unfolded over the past few months?

“Event wagering” would have enabled betting on esports, as well as sporting events – with the exception of college games. 

Although Hunter’s official opinion deemed the signing of these compacts to be unlawful, the Department of the Interior opted to approve them without action last month anyway. They were then listed in the Federal Register and went live. 

Because state legislators haven’t passed sports betting into law, the court determined that the two compacts would be letting the two tribes offer illegal gambling. Stitt “has a role” in setting public policies, according to the Court. However, the Governor’s main priority is “in the faithful execution of the law” as legislators have determined. 

Following the Supreme Court’s decision, Hunter referred to it as “an apt decision”.