By Matt Trotter
Public Radio Tulsa
Dozens of tribal leaders attended a news conference Thursday afternoon at Tulsa’s River Spirit Casino to respond to Gov. Kevin Stitt’s offer to extend current gaming compacts through August.
“There’s no intention to sign any type of extension. There’s no need to sign an extension when the compact is already auto-renewed,” said Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association Chairman Matt Morgan.
Stitt is sticking to his guns and saying the compacts expire January first and casino operations will be illegal after that date. Tribal officials say they’re ready for a long legal fight.
Stitt responded to the tribes’ news conference in an email late Thursday.
“I am disappointed that the tribes turned our offer down and refused our requests to negotiate new compact terms that better address the parties’ changing needs. I will continue to work to protect the state’s interests, and I hope that those running the casino industry will negotiate with the state in good faith as these compacts demand,” Stitt said.
Muscogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief James Floyd said it will be business as usual through the New Year holiday and into next year, with River Spirit booked on entertainment and guests for the foreseeable future.
“We know the tourism industry is a key economic generator, and we – the tribes standing here with me today — are the top producers of tourism revenue in the state of Oklahoma,” Floyd said.
Morgan also responded to Stitt’s claim earlier this week that not all 39 tribes in the state are on the same page in the gaming compact standoff.
“Everyone here is united. We continue to meet, we continue to have discussions, we continue to work for the betterment of not only our tribal citizens, but citizens of the state, and we wish we had a willing partner on the other side,” Morgan said.
Tribes have said if Stitt concedes the compacts renew automatically, they’re willing to negotiate exclusivity fees.