The back-and-forth between the Oklahoma governor and Native American tribes over gaming compacts appears to be amping up: Some tribes have launched a multi-faceted media campaign promoting the benefits they bring to the state.
The United for Oklahoma campaign is staying away from policy discussions and instead focuses on jobs and economic impact. But the messages reflect what tribal leaders have already said about Gov. Kevin Stitt’s efforts to reopen discussions about compacts that fix the percentage cut of gaming revenue the state receives.
A website, unitedforoklahoma.com, and related Facebook page are live, the latter with more than 1,000 likes. At least one television promotion aired recently on OETA-TV, and an audio version aired on a public radio station. A video on the website shows rural and urban scenes and mentions the tribes’ efforts to benefit schools, health care and roads.
“We are united for Oklahoma. Committed to mutual respect, shared strength and productive partnerships,” the video says.
On the site, former Gov. Brad Henry, and former Treasurer Scott Meacham, who negotiated the compacts during the Henry administration, offer short written testimonials without specifically mentioning gaming.
The website says, “Native American tribes are an integral part of every square inch of Oklahoma … They are an economic engine providing more than $13 billion in state revenue and overall economic impact … This is why Oklahoma leaders have long understood that when the tribes are strong, Oklahoma is strong.”
Internet domain registration records show the United for Oklahoma website was registered July 12. The Facebook page was created July 15.
After an initial back-and-forth over the compacts by Stitt’s office and several tribes, Stitt asked Attorney General Mike Hunter to get involved. Stitt wants discussions to start by early September and suggested a mediator be brought in, according to a letter he sent to Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby on Aug. 13. Thirty-four of the state’s 38 federally recognized tribes have gaming compacts.
Stitt’s office has said its legal interpretation of the compacts mean they expire Jan. 1. The tribes said the agreements automatically renew. The state collected almost $139 million in gaming exclusivity fees in fiscal year 2018, according to the Office of Management and Enterprise Services.
Both sides have expressed a willingness to talk, but neither has backed down from its initial position on the compacts. The new promotional campaign suggests the face-off is partly a battle to win over public opinion.