by Patrick B. McGuigan | Oklahoma Watchdog
OKLAHOMA CITY – New compact agreements between Oklahoma and leading western tribes mark an historic moment in relations between
governments deemed sovereign in U.S. law.
One among the trio of accords will likely bring millions of dollars to the state government over the coming years — without a tax increase — due to provisions guiding one-fifth of a new tribal revenue stream to the state.
The compacts ban in-state Internet gaming while establishing the new revenues for Oklahoma, update a tobacco compact, and form a cooperative agreement on outdoor burn bans as part of joint efforts to battle the exceptional drought afflicting Oklahoma.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and Gov. Janice Prairie-Chief Boswell of the Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribes signed the agreements in an April 5 (Friday) ceremony at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City.
The gaming accord is first of its kind concerning online international gaming pursuant to a Class III compact.
The 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 the differences.
Among other provisions, the settlement agreement allows 20 percent of revenues generated from international gaming to go to the state of Oklahoma, while locking in a ban on in-state Internet gambling. The agreement could generate hundreds of millions of dollars for the state of Oklahoma in the coming decade.
The new accords continue Gov. Fallin’s pattern of addressing historic tensions between the state and the various federally recognized tribal nations.
Fallin has sought better relations with the large tribes, even in the midst of a major disagreement over water policy with the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations. Last summer, she inked an historic tobacco compact with the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and Chief George Tiger, ending litigation that had begun in 2009 and beginning resolution of a range of disagreements with that tribe.
Fallin has also communicated regularly with the bipartisan state Legislative Caucus, and recently signed a compact with the Kaw Nation. Her administration has sought closer state ties to the numerically smaller but historically significant western Oklahoma tribes, including the Cheyenne & Arapaho.
Shortly after the signing, Gov. Boswell told Oklahoma Watchdog, “The tribe is pleased to announce that this afternoon it signed three agreements with the State of Oklahoma including a Tobacco Compact, a Burn Ban and a Settlement Agreement under the terms of its Class III Gaming Compact.
“The Tobacco Compact and Burn Ban Agreements are identical to compacts signed by the Kaw Nation a few days ago. The Settlement Agreement effectively shuts down the Tribes online social gaming network, including Pokertribes.com, inside the United States in exchange for an Agreement that the Tribes be allowed to operate the site internationally pursuant to international standards and each specific country’s jurisdictional requirements consistent with all state of Oklahoma and U.S. federal laws.
“The Tribes plan to bring this exciting new product to the international market in the very near future. We appreciate the support and cooperation of Gov. Fallin of the State of Oklahoma and her staff in making this an historic day for the Cheyenne & Arapaho people. We look forward to working with the State in the future for the common good of our collective peoples.”
Friday evening, Brian Foster of the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association (OIGA) applauded the accord in a statement sent to Oklahoma Watchdog. He commented, “The Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association has been informed that a member Tribe has entered into an agreement with the State of Oklahoma to insure the citizens within the State cannot participate in Internet Gaming off Indian Lands as set forth in the Model Tribal Gaming Compact passed by the Oklahoma citizens in November 2004.
“Since this agreement has affected a site currently in operation, the OIGA office of the Chairman supports the Tribe in the cease and desist of the Internet site within the jurisdiction of the United States of America and any other jurisdiction which might have laws prohibiting its citizens from such forms of Gaming.
“The OIGA looks forward to assisting our member tribes as they are joining a rapidly changing and developing international gaming industry. Worldwide projections show the annual marketplace to be at $30 billion. This is the next step in generating much needed revenue for Oklahoma Tribes and the State of Oklahoma.”
Foster concluded, “I applaud the dual effort between the State of Oklahoma and the Tribes to open the pathway for international gaming. This continues an already mutually beneficial partnership which will ensure future economic growth and continued success for all citizens of Oklahoma.
“We look forward to adding to millions of dollars in education revenue, millions of dollars in goods and services, and the over 80,000 jobs that have been created, much of which are in rural areas outside of the already blossoming metropolitan areas.”
Tribal nations have a unique situation with respect to federal law. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act exempted the Tribes from the Wire Act and the 2006 federal law which prohibited Internet gaming in the United States and by U.S. citizens.
Earlier this week, on April 3 (Wednesday), the Cheyenne & Arapaho Gaming Commission approved implementation of technical standards for Internet Gaming in non-USA markets where such gaming is not illegal, pledging to abide by all relevant federal laws.
In Friday’s settlement agreement, the State and the Tribes agreed that “approval of the National Indian Gaming Commission, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Department of the Interior may be beneficial, but is not necessary for this Agreement to be in full force and effect.”
Additionally, the Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribal Legislature approved measures supporting Gov. Boswell’s decision to sign the accords.
You may contact Patrick B. McGuigan, Oklahoma City bureau chief for the Watchdog.org network, at Patrick@capitolbeatok.com and follow us on Twitter: @capitolbeatok.