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An Editorial: Governor Stitt is right on the Compact

A map of Oklahoma and Indian Territories, 1890.
A map of Oklahoma and Indian Territories, 1890.

The City Sentinel Editorial

In January, Governor Kevin Stitt began to focus on “the upcoming termination of the Tribal-State Gaming Compacts.”
In a recent letter to leaders of the state’s Indian Nations, Stitt said, “[T]here has been no governmental action … or court order authorizing electronic gaming in the State, since the effective date of the Compact,” and therefore “I have been advised that the Compact will not automatically renew.”

Larger tribes oppose negotiation, contending that compacts should automatically renew under existing provisions. Smaller tribes have joined the chorus for the status quo.

Stitt is right. Tribes here pay less through compacts than do Indian nations elsewhere in the U S.. He wants to address that now. Prudence and foresight indicate the wisdom of his communication to the nations.

Big Tribe leaders organized pressure campaigns through surrogates (recipients of tribal gifts, both charitable and political) to tell Stitt they will suffer if changes are made.

In truth, smaller tribes have been hurt, in market share, because of decades of federal decisions permitting politically more powerful tribes to garner more gaming operations than they would have secured under a fairer process.

Here in Oklahoma, six tribes (15 percent of the 39 federally recognized tribes here) have cornered 85 percent of the Indian gaming market. As noted in previous reflections, Further analysis shows that just three tribes (Chickasaw, Cherokee and Choctaw) have two-thirds of all the tribal gaming businesses. And, one (the Chickasaw Nation) has one-third of all of the tribal gaming market under its control.”

The assumption of many is that, going forward, there has to be a “bad guy.” That is not necessarily so.

No one can undo events of the Nineteenth Century. Neither Stitt nor his allies want to reverse progress over recent decades in addressing past iniquities.
Everyone should desire for smaller tribal nations and the whole state a more rational share of revenues that flow from a multi-billion industry in which larger tribes have operated as the equivalent of monopolies.
Further, there are under-reported stories from Indian Country, including vendors making more here than elsewhere because of sweetheart deals with large operations, and the equivalent of insider trading.
Governor Stitt is right. He should stay the course.

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