There has been a further development in the ongoing standoff between Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt and a number of the state’s tribal gaming interests over exclusive gaming compacts which, according to Stitt, expired on January 1. 

The Governor has appointed Seattle law firm Perkins Coie LLP to negotiate with the tribes on agreeing to revised compacts that would see them pay higher exclusivity rates than the current 4% to 6% they currently contribute. The tribes, however, continue to fight for a declaratory judgement that the compacts remain effective and have filed their own lawsuit to that effect.  

Quoted in The Oklahoman, Stitt outlined the rationale behind the hiring of the legal firm, saying: “With Perkins Coie, the State of Oklahoma is well positioned to work towards a compact that protects core public services and advances the future of our great state, its four million residents, and gaming tribes. 

“Perkins Coie will also respond to and address the Chickasaw, Cherokee, and Choctaw Nations’ federal lawsuit filed on New Year’s Eve. The legal experts at Perkins Coie have successfully represented other states in Indian law controversies, to include the State of New Mexico’s compact dispute in 2015.”

Perkins Coie’s legal intervention will not come cheaply, however, with quoted hourly costs ranging from $430 to $750, and $390 an hour to hire a legal assistant.  

With a court battle looming, the tribes have continued to trade beyond Stitt’s hotly contested New Year deadline. They argue that measuring tribal exclusivity fees against those applied to commercial casinos paints an inaccurate picture in that commercial operators do not contribute financially to the infrastructure of their states and communities in the way that tribal interests do.