Chicken-Fried News: No sale 

  • Ingvard Ashby

Gov. Kevin “Coffee Is for Closers” Stitt has repeatedly said he wants to run Oklahoma like a business — without specifying exactly what kind of business he’s running. Following stalled negotiations over tribal casino gaming compacts, Choctaw Chief Gary Batton seems to have a guess.

“It felt like a used car salesman thing, telling me I need a vehicle, and I’m saying, ‘No, I don’t. I have a good vehicle,’” said Batton in a Nov. 25 Tulsa World story.

The tribes say the compacts — which allow their casinos exclusive rights to provide slot machines, roulette, craps and card games in Oklahoma — will renew automatically next year. Stitt, who wants to raise the rate of the fees tribes are required to pay to maintain this exclusivity, insists the compacts, negotiated in 2004, expire Jan. 1, 2020. For negotiations thus far, this disagreement has been a real banana in the tailpipe.

According to a statement Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association issued to News 4, “Governor Stitt’s stance on auto-renewal has created a barrier to engaging in meaningful discussions about rates. … The Tribes would be willing to engage in an honest and good faith discussion on rates when the current dispute with Governor Stitt is resolved.”

In fiscal year 2018, according to Oklahoma Policy Institute, 131 casinos operated by 31 tribes made $2.3 billion on class III games and $138.6 million to the state’s Education Reform Fund, General Revenue Fund and Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

Stitt, in a July Tulsa World op-ed, wrote that he wanted to renegotiate the compacts to reflect “the current fair-market contribution to the growth of the gaming industry,” but his aggressive hard sell seems to be scaring his potential customers off the lot before they’ve even had a chance to kick the tires. To quote Kurt Russell’s character in Used Cars, “You have to get their confidence, get their friendship, get their trust. Then get their money.”

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