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Oklahoma governor hires law firm in tribal gambling battle

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt announced Friday the hiring of an out-of-state law firm to represent him in his ongoing dispute with Native American tribes over casino gambling.

Stitt hired Seattle-based Perkins Coie to advise his office in his attempt to renegotiate the state's gaming compacts with the tribes.

The contract, signed last month by Stitt's general counsel, Mark Burget, is for legal services up to $300,000 and authorizes attorney fees of up to $750 per hour.

Stitt spokeswoman Donelle Harder said it's not uncommon for states to retain outside counsel in "complex disputes or specialized areas." She said Perkins Coie attorneys recently worked on gaming compacts in New Mexico.

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The governor and the tribes are locked in a dispute over whether the existing 15-year compacts that authorize gambling exclusively at tribal casinos expired on Jan. 1. Stitt maintains the compacts expired on that date and that casino gambling is now illegal in the state.

The tribes argue that all the conditions have been met for the compacts to renew for another 15-year term and sued the governor in federal court last week in an attempt to resolve the dispute.

Meanwhile, it was business as usual this week at the roughly 130 casinos across Oklahoma.