Oklahoma Officials to Meet With Tribes for Gambling Talks

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Associated Press
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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Native American tribes in Oklahoma will meet with state officials to discuss clashing views on the tribes’ gambling agreement, which the governor has said expires beginning of next year.

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The dispute over the agreement between the tribes and the state flared up when Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt wrote in an op-ed article that he plans to renegotiate that the state receive a higher share of casino revenue, which now ranges from 4% to 10% and mostly funds schools.

Stitt said the tribes’ 15-year gambling compact will expire on Jan. 1 unless a renewal is negotiated. Tribal officials disagree, saying the agreement should renew automatically unless both the state and tribes agree to different terms.

Tribal leaders are meeting with Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter on Oct. 28 in Shawnee to iron out their differing interpretations of the agreement, The Oklahoman reported.

“I’m hoping it’s just a simple misunderstanding,” said Greg Chilcoat, chief of the Seminole Nation in Oklahoma, adding that he hoped the issue could be resolved through “fair and open communication” among governmental entities.

Oklahoma has agreed to pay $250,000 to a Michigan law firm to assist with negotiations.

The governor and Attorney General Mike Hunter both declined to discuss the talks because of the “dynamic and delicate nature” of the matter, said Alex Gerszewski, a spokesman for the state attorney general’s office.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma’s gambling tribes have financed an extensive television and newspaper advertising campaign to inform the public about the millions of dollars they spend annually on education, roads, bridges, health care and other things that benefit Oklahomans.

“The tribes have all made a considerable investment – in fact, we’re talking billions of dollars – and we still have investments to make,” said Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby.

Last year, the state collected more than $139 million in fees, which mostly went to support education.

“We’re anxiously awaiting what (the state’s) proposal is,” said Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton.

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