Compact Dispute Causes Years-Long Delay for Iowa Nation Casino

The Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma has faced significant delays in the construction of a new gaming venue due to an ongoing dispute with the Governor’s Office and the state’s tribal operators. The tribe intends to build a larger resort across from its existing Ioway Casino on Route 66 and also desires to construct an exit ramp off I-44 leading directly to the casino. These developments would be funded and built by the tribe on its sovereign reservation. However, the tribe was informed in 2019 that it would need to sign a new gaming compact with the state before undertaking the project.

At the time, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt was seeking to renegotiate the commercial relationship between the state and tribal casino operators, advocating for revenue-share payments to be raised from 6% to 13%. While the governor argued the 2004 model compact would expire at the end of 2019, most tribes claimed that no renegotiation was necessary. Ultimately, the matter was settled in the Oklahoma Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the tribes.

Despite this, only two of the state’s 38 federally recognized tribes have agreed to Stitt’s compact. The Senate Joint Tribal Relations Committee rejected both compacts, expressing concerns about the potential expansion of casinos in Oklahoma County.

The Iowa Nation Chairman, Jacob Keyes, expressed frustration with the situation, stating that negotiations with the governor were practically nonexistent. He also voiced opposition to the governor’s proposed gaming compacts, describing them as unfavorable for the tribe and other tribes in the state. However, Keyes remained optimistic, citing support from allies in the legislature and expressing confidence that the project would eventually come to fruition.

He indicated that the tribe aims to begin construction on the casino in April next year, with a projected opening in mid-2026. Despite the ongoing challenges, the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma remains committed to realizing its new gaming venue.