The top court in the state of Oklahoma has made its decision. Tribal sports betting is on hold. The Supreme Court issued a 7-1 ruling striking down compacts made by Gov. Kevin Stitt.
They pertain to deals with two of the Native American tribes in the state. However, apparently the governor lacked the authority “to bind the State with respect to the new tribal gaming compacts with the Comanche Nation and Otoe-Missouria Tribes.”
The tribes had a made in heaven agreement. They would offer on-site sports betting, house-banked card and table games and be able to build new casinos off tribal lands.
State officials balked, including Attorney General Mike Hunter. Only the federal Department of the Interior was on board.
A rift between other gaming tribes ensued over compact renewals. In short, the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association viewed Stitt’s tactics as a divide-and-conquer effort intended to undermine their collective efforts.
The Court has spoken. The compacts were nullified as they sanctioned a form of illegal gambling. Furthermore, the governor cannot set public policy; he can only execute the law per the dictates of the legislative branch.
The brouhaha between state and federal law is instructive and the outcome is unknown. Things are yet to be definitively settled. Of course, the two tribes in question are not amused.
Otoe-Missouria chairman John Shotton said aggressively,
“The Court doesn’t have jurisdiction to invalidate our compact when state and federal law dictates that our compact is legal.”
Shotton added that his tribe had no plans to offer sports betting or house-banked games unless authorized by state law. This was included in the compact ignored by the Court.
According to Comanche Nation chair William Nelbuson Sr., his tribe’s compact is legal under federal law. The tribe is “prepared to legally invoke the compact’s severability clause if necessary.”
Compacts with two additional tribes – the Kialegee Tribal Town and Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians – seem to set a precedence for the governor. However, these compacts do not include the right to offer gambling products unapproved by the legislature.