While we understand Gov. Kevin Stitt wanting more revenue for our cash-strapped state, demanding more from the Choctaw Nation and other tribal governments in Oklahoma isn’t the right move.

Gov. Stitt’s fight with tribes in the state over gaming compacts is going to mediation following a federal judge’s order. Stitt maintains the 15-year compacts expired Jan. 1 and should be renegotiated, while the tribes say the compacts automatically renew.

We agree with the tribes.

The compacts automatically renew Jan. 1, 2020 if certain licensing conditions of electronic gaming at horse tracks are met. The Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission relicensed electronic gaming with the state’s horse tracks in October 2019.

But neither side is budging as the dispute heads to mediation.

Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Chief Gary Batton has reiterated his stance on the agreement’s automatic renewal and indicated during a recent press conference in regard to the tribe driving more than $2 billion into the state’s economy that he — and other tribal leaders — aren’t backing down any time soon.

“I can stand before you as a proud Choctaw and a proud Oklahoman because a rising tide rises all ships,” Batton said. “The Choctaw Nation, we’re here, we’re not going anywhere else. We are truly going to continue making Oklahoma better and we’re not going to go to Mexico; we’re not going to go anywhere else. We’re going to stay right here in our grand state of Oklahoma.”

More than 130 tribe-operated casinos in Oklahoma generated $148.2 million for the state in 2019 from exclusivity fees of 4-6 % on Class III games and 10% on table games. Over the 15-year gaming compact, the tribes have delivered $1.5 billion in fees toward state revenue.

An economic impact study shows the Choctaw Nation bolstered the state’s economy by more than $2 billion in 2018.

Choctaw Nation supported 16,974 jobs in Oklahoma with a total of $793.8 million in wages. The tribe invested more than $100 million in state roads and highways since 2010. The Nation put $3.8 million toward water lines and other infrastructure. Choctaw Nation spent $45.6 million in education funding.

We appreciate Choctaw Nation and other Native American tribes leading the way in many areas to help our state grow and move forward.

The governor should recognize the same and step out of the way so the Choctaw Nation and other tribal governments can continue bolstering the state’s economy, providing jobs, helping enhance infrastructure and contributing toward education and law enforcement, along with everything else they do on behalf of Oklahoma — and Oklahomans.

• McAlester News-Capital Editorial Board

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