By Patrick B. McGuigan
OKLAHOMA CITY – An amended settlement agreement between the State of Oklahoma and the Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribes, with the consent of state Gov. Mary Fallin and C&A Gov. Janice Prairie-Chief Boswell, has gone to the U.S. Department of Interior. The updated compact extends an agreement between Oklahoma and the Tribes about gaming.
The Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, through legal counsel, assert they do not have to submit to federal authorities a legal opinion concerning the agreement, but did so to stress the view that the Tribes “should not be denied the opportunity presented in the Amended Settlement.”
The new accord was in response to an August 1 letter from the Interior Department to Gov. Boswell, in which the federal officials asserted technical violations of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA).
The U.S. government did not directly address issues touching another law, the UIGEA (Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act), but contended the net effect of the accord amounted to a change in the application of the the compact between Oklahoma and the tribes.
The tribes disagree with that contention, saying the amended settlement “is at most a Technical Amendment” to the existing compact.
Resolving the differing and rather technical interpretations is important. Agreement between the two tribes and Oklahoma will likely bring millions of dollars to the state government — without a tax increase — due to provisions guiding a portion of a new tribal revenue stream to the state.
The compact in question from the start banned in-state Internet gaming, and established a legal basis to offer outside the U.S. web-based gaming not allowed domestically – and to provide new revenues for the state.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and Gov. Janice Prairie-Chief Boswell of the Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribes signed the original agreements in an April 5 ceremony at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City.
The gaming accord, both in its original and revised forms, is first of its kind.
The April agreement led the tribe to shut down an online site that state officials contended was a violation of existing gaming compacts.
After negotiations over several weeks, the Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribes agreed to fashion the new settlement. Gov. Fallin’s attorney, Steve Mullins, said the Tribes negotiated in good faith, allowing resolution of differences.
Among other provisions, the original settlement agreement would allow 20 percent of revenues generated from international gaming to go to the state of Oklahoma. That could generate hundreds of millions of dollars for the state in the coming decade.
Despite the initial federal objections, tribal and state officials are optimistic the amended settlement agreement, filed at the secretary of state’s office on September 13, will be accepted.
Legislation approving the amended agreement passed the tribal legislature in August, sponsored by Reps. Patrick Spottedwolf and Bruce Whiteman. Legislative clerk Ramona Tall Bear affirmed the measure’s approval, and Gov. Boswell signed the legislation on August 21. Then, she affixed her name to the state agreement on September 11, with Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin adding her signature on September 12. The accord was then sent to federal officials.