Matthew L. Morgan, Chairman of the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association, has released a statement directed at Gov. Kevin Stitt regarding the recent ‘confidential offer of compromise’ sent to tribal leaders last week.
The ‘confidential offer, which came from a law firm hired by the governor, seemingly looked to pressure tribes into negotiating new Class III gaming compacts by citing the COVID-19 pandemic.
Beginning by stating ‘we are in uncertain times’, the letter sent by the firm goes on to cite how the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak has ‘changed the landscape of Oklahoma’s tribal and non-tribal environment’ before suggesting that the differences between both parties be put to one side in order to send a message to Oklahoma residents regarding its joint commitment to a ‘strong and prosperous future.’
The letter sent goes on to discuss the ‘suffering’ enterprises throughout the state and suggests that through the signing of its ‘New Compact’ tribal gaming enterprises will be setting themselves up to have a swifter recovery from the virus-caused ‘commercial interruption.’
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 claiming that the letter was an unsuccessful attempt to divide the tribes and stated that the sole intent of the Governor is to destroy the tribal interests outlined in the existing compacts.
Moreover, Morgan also made it clear that the Tribal leaders who had received the letter, reject the proposal laid out to them as both disrespectful and disingenuous.
He concluded: “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.”