For months, lawmakers in the state of Oklahoma have been fighting with Native American tribes in the state over gambling tax rates. The state government feels it’s time to renegotiate the tax structure set on these tribes’ casinos. Unfortunately, Oklahoma’s gambling issues are continuing in court.
This week, the Attorney General commented on this dispute. Today, we’re going to talk about how these problems started, and what to expect in the future.
Let’s get into it!
What Started the Dispute Between OK Lawmakers and Tribes?
There are a huge number of Native American tribes in Oklahoma. Since 2004, Oklahoma has allowed tribes in the state to operate Class III casinos. Tribal leaders and lawmakers in the state agreed to a 15-year contract that sets a tax structure of 4 to 10% of gambling revenue.
For the past 15 years, things have run smoothly. It seemed as if both the tribes and lawmakers were happy with the money coming in. Unfortunately, things began to take a turn in 2019.
Last year, Governor Kevin Stitt revealed that he wanted to renegotiate the tax structure with the tribes. He argues that since the 15-year contract has expired, the system set in place back in 2004 is no longer valid. The Native American tribes here, however, believe that this contract automatically renews and are refusing to agree to any new terms.
It’s become a serious issue in the state. Governor Stitt has claimed that the state’s tribal casinos are now operating illegally. The tribes are challenging that notion in court.
Neither of these groups has been able to make much progress. In the meantime, the tribes are continuing to run their gambling venues as if nothing is happening. It’s a complicated issue that may drag on for months.
Attorney General Comments on Oklahoma’s Gambling Issues
Lawmakers and tribal leaders are refusing to back down here. Kevin Stitt is adamant that it’s time for the state to start earning more from the casinos here. He’s proposed several ideas, including diverting the gambling revenue that tribes are earning while the legal process takes place.
This week, Attorney General Mike Hunter officially shut this idea down. Hunter claims that gambling revenue must be allocated under the state’s current laws. This calls for 12% of all revenue to be deposited into the state’s general fund and the rest to go towards public education.
Many of the tribes in Oklahoma have sued Governor Stitt in federal court. As we already mentioned, these tribes are continuing to operate their gambling revenue. In the meantime, revenue from these gaming venues is not going to the state.
In February, a federal judge ordered the tribes and Stitt to enter into mediation. The judge is now demanding that the two parties come to an agreement by March 31st. Whether or not that becomes a reality is still unknown.
Governor Stitt is suggesting that 25% of gambling revenue go towards the state government. He commented on Oklahoma’s gambling issues to the media this week.
“I don’t begrudge them for fighting for a good deal for themselves,” Stitt explained. “But guys, this is not a good deal. I would not be doing a good job as governor if I rubber stamped a contract that goes on forever.”
There’s no way of telling how this situation will play out.
Coronavirus May Have An Impact on Oklahoma’s Gambling Industry
For months, a new kind of coronavirus that emerged in Wuhan, China called Covid-19 has spread around the world. It’s already infected more than 110,000 individuals and killed thousands. Unfortunately, there are no indications that this virus will die off anytime soon.
In fact, Covid-19 has begun spreading rapidly around the United States. According to new reports, at least 720 people have been diagnosed in the country. Most experts feel the true number is considerably higher.
This virus is already having an impact on the country’s gambling industry. Some reports claim that tourism to Las Vegas is beginning to slow down. There are fears over the spread of the virus inside gambling venues.
There’s a chance that the coronavirus could seriously impact Oklahoma’s gambling industry. Not long ago, a case was officially confirmed in a casino in Oregon. This forced the gambling venue to shut down. If cases begin popping up in Oklahoma casinos, the state’s entire gambling industry may eventually close off.
Oklahoma’s gambling issues may just be getting started. For now, they involve just lawmakers and tribes. Hopefully, Covid-19 does not end up forcing casinos here to shut their doors to the public.
Stay tuned for more Oklahoma casino news over the next few months!