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Federal judge rejects requests by two tribes to join lawsuit against Gov. Stitt

An Oklahoma City federal judge has rejected requests by two tribes to join a tribal gaming lawsuit against Gov. Kevin Stitt.

It would be "neither necessary nor appropriate" to allow the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians and the Kialegee Tribal Town to intervene in the lawsuit, Chief U.S. District Judge Timothy D. DeGiusti wrote in a six-page order issued Thursday.

At issue in the lawsuit is whether the state's 15-year gaming compacts with more than 30 Oklahoma tribes expired on Jan. 1 or automatically renewed on that date.

Stitt contends the gaming compacts expired, while tribes argue they automatically renewed. The governor has said he wants the tribes to renegotiate the compacts to pay higher exclusivity fee rates than the 4-6% graduated rates that they have been paying on Las Vegas-style Class III slot machines.

The Cherokee, Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations filed a lawsuit on New Year's Eve asking DeGiusti to issue a declaratory judgment that the compacts automatically renewed.

Nine other tribes later were permitted to join the lawsuit, but several tribes objected when the Keetoowah and Kialegee tribes sought to participate. The Keetoowah tribe is based in Tahlequah, while the Kialegee tribe is based in Wetumka.

Opposing tribes argued that the Keetoowah and Kialegee tribes did not have the same legal issues that they had because the Keetoowah and Kialegee tribes do not currently have gaming operations in Oklahoma. They also noted that unlike Oklahoma's other gaming tribes, the Keetoowah and Kialegee tribes complied with a request from the governor and signed eight-month extension agreements to their gaming compacts last December.

The Keetoowah and Kialegee tribes argued, among other things, that they should be allowed to join the lawsuit to protect their rights during court-ordered mediation.

"Unless the Court allows the Band to intervene and take part in the mediation, other tribes, some of whom are antagonistic to the Band, could agree to terms that would negatively affect the Band's future gaming prospects against the Band's wishes," the Keetoowah Band stated in one court filing.

DeGiusti found that argument and a nearly identical argument by the Kialegee tribe to be unpersuasive, stating that the two tribes were seeking "to use the declaratory judgment remedy for procedural fencing rather than to settle a legal controversy with Gov. Stitt."

The judge's ruling cleared the way for mediation to continue. Both sides of the dispute are prohibited from discussing progress of mediation efforts with anyone who is not directly involved. The judge has said he wants mediation to be completed or substantially completed by March 31.

Related Photos
<strong>Craps table during the first day of Oklahoma casinos being able to use ball and dice in Tulsa, OK, Aug. 20, 2018. [STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World]</strong>

Craps table during the first day of Oklahoma casinos being able to use ball and dice in Tulsa, OK, Aug. 20, 2018. [STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-846a69ae3e5ebaedaafb6ad3d290542f.jpg" alt="Photo - Craps table during the first day of Oklahoma casinos being able to use ball and dice in Tulsa, OK, Aug. 20, 2018. [STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World] " title=" Craps table during the first day of Oklahoma casinos being able to use ball and dice in Tulsa, OK, Aug. 20, 2018. [STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World] "><figcaption> Craps table during the first day of Oklahoma casinos being able to use ball and dice in Tulsa, OK, Aug. 20, 2018. [STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World] </figcaption></figure>
Randy Ellis

For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two... Read more ›

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