Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond speaks to the Horse Racing Commission on Thursday, May 16, 2024. Drummond recommended rejection of a resolution proposed by Gov. Kevin Stitt regarding the future renewal of state-tribal gaming compacts. (Tres Savage)

Heeding the advice of Attorney General Gentner Drummond, the Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission today trampled a resolution proposed by Gov. Kevin Stitt that would have expressed opposition to the automatic renewal of state-tribal casino gaming compacts in 2034.

Commissioners, who took no action on the proposal in March and referred it to Drummond for his review, asked no questions after hearing the attorney general’s recommendation. They voted 7-0 to reject the resolution, with Commissioner Brian Burget abstaining. Burget is the son of the late Mark Burget, a respected attorney who served as Stitt’s general counsel when the governor first engaged in a political and legal fight with tribal nations over his desire to renegotiate gaming compacts.

In 2019, action taken by the commission to renew organizational licenses for gaming at state-owned race tracks triggered the automatic renewal of state-tribal compacts on casino gambling, a federal judge ultimately ruled.

In an effort to avoid a similar situation a decade from now, Stitt’s requested resolution proposed a statement that “the commission desires the state to be in the best position to negotiate terms of compacts entered under the Model Gaming Compact.”

But Drummond told commissioners the resolution requested by Stitt was “unaffordable, illegal, and would be wrong-headed.”

“One, the commission may not delegate or abdicate its statutory responsibility to license and supervise all organizational licenses,” he said. “Secondly, the professional or business licenses, once granted, do not expire without due process. And I know this commission is well aware of the necessity of due process for our applicants and those who hold licenses. Thirdly, due process demands an impartial tribunal. And if you prejudge at this point, then you have indicated your disqualification to be an impartial trier (of) fact in the removal of any licenses.

“And lastly, the resolution that would be approved in 2024 is simply unenforceable on any future commission, as you can appreciate. If a commission 10 years ago tried to tie your hands, you would not do it.”

Stitt said he was disappointed with the commission’s action.

“No contract should exist in perpetuity,” Stitt said in a statement provided by his office. “That’s all I was addressing in the resolution. We cannot leave the state in a position of not being able to renegotiate those contracts. I wrongly assumed even the AG would have wanted the best for the state.”

Commission chairman: ‘The logical thing to do’

Dr. John Chancey, executive director and equine health and welfare director of the Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission, observes the commission’s meeting on Thursday, May 16, 2024. (Michael McNutt)

In his letter to commissioners (embedded below), Drummond wrote that the resolution was an attempt by Stitt to negotiate compact renewal terms effective in 2035 and avoid the potential automatic renewal of compacts entered in accordance with the Model Tribal Gaming Compact.

“The resolution unsurprisingly perpetuates the governor’s open bias against tribal gaming compacts and, even worse, is fraught with legal landmines,” Drummond wrote.

Horse Racing Commission Chairman Keith Sanders said Drummond’s opinion was “perfect.”

“It’s not enforceable, obviously,” Sanders said of the proposed resolution, “and I can’t tell you what to do in 10 years.”

Voting down the proposal was “the logical thing to do,” he said.

He said most of those on the Horse Racing Commission, which governs racing and casino contracts at the state’s three horse tracks, agreed the proposal was an overreach by the governor, “but we wanted someone more responsible, sort of more knowledgeable than us to give us that counsel.”

Drummond said the governor, through his resolution, would have exercised undue influence over the commission. The resolution attempted to predetermine that the commission would not grant any renewal request unless and until the governor approved it.


Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission resolution gaming compacts

Stitt to Horse Racing Commission: Oppose 2034 auto-renewal of casino gaming compacts by Tres Savage

“What the governor is asking is to proactively — at this date certain, at the stroke of midnight — suspend or withdraw all licenses,” Drummond said after the meeting. “Once a license is granted, a property right is established, and in the state of Oklahoma you can’t deny somebody of a property right without due process.”

Drummond called the proposal “just wrong-headed.”

So at the stroke of midnight if the resolution were passed, all of these licenses would be suspended and revoked, and the state would incur substantial litigation expenses because every one of these license holders have invested millions of dollars in this industry, and we can’t do that. It would be against the law primarily on a due process legal analysis but secondarily to bind the hands of a future commission. None of (…) these members will be a member of that commission.”

Read Drummond’s letter to the Horse Racing Commission

Loader Loading...
EAD Logo Taking too long?
Reload Reload document
| Open Open in new tab