Posted on: November 21, 2023, 03:37h.
Last updated on: November 21, 2023, 03:37h.
The Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma’s efforts to build a new gaming venue across from its modest Ioway Casino on Route 66 have been “delayed by years” by an ongoing spat between the Governor’s Office and the state’s tribal operators.
The tribe wants to build a bigger resort on the other side of Route 66. It also wants to construct an exit ramp off I-44 that leads directly to the casino, bypassing a five-mile detour that patrons must take when approaching from the freeway.
Both the casino and the exit would be funded and built by the tribe on its sovereign reservation. But when the Iowa asked for permission to undertake the project in 2019, it was told it would first have to sign a new gaming compact with the state.
At the time, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt was trying to reshape the commercial relationship between the state and its tribal casino operators.
The governor argued that the model compact signed by most tribes in 2004 was scheduled to expire at the end of 2019. He wanted tribes to sign a new compact that would raise revenue-share payments from 6% to 13%.
The tribes argued the compact was designed to roll over at the end of 2019, and no renegotiation was necessary. They were ultimately vindicated in the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
Just two of the state’s 38 federally recognized tribes have signed Stitt’s compact, the United Keetoowah Band (UKB) and Kialegee Tribal Town (KTT).
The Senate Joint Tribal Relations Committee rejected both compacts last month over concerns that they would give the two tribes a “carte blanche” to open casinos in Oklahoma County, which surrounds Oklahoma City and is the state’s most populous region.
‘Not a Relationship’
But Stitt is still eager to squeeze more money out of the casinos, which leaves the Iowa project in a difficult position.
“We were basically told that we couldn’t do that project for the exit without signing a new compact,” Iowa Nation Chairman, Jacob Keyes, told local news station KFOR.
Any ideas of gaming compacts [Stitt]’s presented are completely off the table for us. We have absolutely no interest in the structure of the compacts he’s put out there. It’s not good for our tribe or really any of the other tribes,” Keyes added.
Keyes said the “ability to negotiate with the governor on anything” was “not really there” and described their relationship as “not a relationship at all really.”
But he added that the tribe has “good allies” in the legislature and was confident that the project would eventually get done. He told KFOR the tribe hopes to begin construction on the casino in April next year for a mid-2026 opening.