Matthew L. Morgan, President of the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association, sent a statement to Gov. Kevin Stitt about the latest ‘confidential offer of compromise’ sent last week to tribal leaders.
Citing the COVID-19 pandemic, the ‘confidential offer’, which came from a law firm hired by the governor, obviously aimed to pressure tribes into signing new Class III gaming compacts.
Starting with the assertion ‘we are in uncertain times,’ the company’s letter goes on to discuss how the current COVID-19 outbreak has ‘changed the landscape of Oklahoma’s tribal and non-tribal environment’ before recommending that the disagreements between the two parties be put to one side in order to send a message to citizens of Oklahoma about their shared commitment to a ‘strong and prosperous future.’
The letter sent goes on to address the ‘suffering’ undertakings in the state and indicates that with the signing of its ‘New Compact’ tribal gaming undertakings would set up to get a quicker recovery from the ‘commercial interruption’ caused by the virus.
In response, Morgan stated: “We are disappointed in the action taken by Governor Stitt through one of his attorneys to take advantage of Tribes as they focus on protecting their tribal citizens and non-tribal citizens during this pandemic.
“Since July we have made it clear that we are open to renegotiating rates as outlined in Part 11 of the compacts. Any party may request to renegotiate rates and exclusivity. Governor Stitt, however, has steadfastly rejected that framework, dismissed the Tribal position, insisting on tossing overboard an intergovernmental agreement that has worked well for all Oklahomans.”
The Chairman of the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association continued by arguing that the letter was an ineffective effort to split the tribes and that the Governor’s primary intent was to undermine the tribal rights established in the current compacts.
Furthermore, Morgan made it clear that the Tribal leaders who received the letter rejected the idea as insensitive and disingenuous to them.
Concluding: “Perhaps more than anything, though, we are dismayed Governor Stitt would exploit the current pandemic for these purposes. Consistent with the advice of public health professionals, the tribal governments have suspended gaming operations to help blunt the spread of COVID-19.
“Nothing is more important to the Tribes than working together to fight this deadly virus. Public health is our main focus at this time.”