Oklahoma’s Secretary of Native American Affairs Resigns, Says State Creating An Unnecessary Conflict

Oklahoma's Secretary of Native American Affairs Resigns, Says State Creating An Unnecessary Conflict

Not all is good between the tribe and the state administration in Oklahoma. Secretary of Native American Affairs, Lisa Billy, has tendered her resignation on Monday citing the state is creating unnecessary conflict with the tribal governments.

The resignation has come in response to state Governor Kevin Stitt’s last week statement in which he was responding to the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association’s press conference. The Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association has rejected the State’s offer to extend tribal gaming compacts by eight months.

“The State offered the extension to protect the parties’ legal positions and to provide legal certainty to those working with or visiting the casinos as the January 1, 2020 deadline approaches,” said Gov. Stitt.

“I am disappointed that the tribes turned our offer down and refused our requests to negotiate new compact terms that better address the parties’ changing needs. I will continue to work to protect the State’s interests, and I hope that those running the casino industry will negotiate with the State in good faith as these compacts demand.”

Governor Stitt also wrote a letter addressing the Oklahoma tribes in which he wrote: “The State of Oklahoma is offering an extension to all current gaming compacts between tribes and the State in order to allow us the necessary time to negotiate. An extension will also alleviate any questions or concerns that lenders, employees, entertainers, vendors, and patrons have concerning whether the Class III gaming activities at the casinos are legal as of January 1, 2020.”

In her resignation letter addressed to the state governor, Secretary Billy writes: “I had hoped service on your cabinet would allow me to be part of a new Administration’s efforts to deepen and strengthen State relations with Sovereign Tribal Nations. Leaning into this opportunity, I have, at my own expense, visited elected tribal leaders across the State, hosted a tribal youth summit, created opportunities for our cabinet to tour Tribal industry, communicated your message to various Inter-Tribal councils, and shared cultural protocol appropriate to supporting effective intergovernmental collaboration.

All my efforts have focused on improving the health of the State-Tribal relationship. I am proud of this work and, again, am grateful for having had the opportunity.”

Earlier in the year, Gov. Kevin Stitt called for renegotiating the 4% and 10% of a casino’s net revenue in “exclusivity fees,” paid by tribal gambling establishments citing that the gambling industry in the state has matured.

Oklahoma had generated $139 million in revenue in 2018 from exclusivity fees. The compacts with the tribal casinos are due to renewal in January 2020.

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