How Alabama, Oklahoma Governor Races Could Affect Gambling

Written By Derek Helling on November 9, 2022
alabama oklahoma gubernatorial elections casinos tribal

Kay Ivey has won another term in Alabama while Kevin Stitt did the same in Oklahoma. While these 2022 gubernatorial elections will have ramifications for many aspects of life in those states, gambling is no exception.

With keeping Ivey in office, Alabama has a governor who is open to working with legislators on implementing an expansion of gaming. In Oklahoma, Stitt’s reelection is a disappointment for tribal casino operators.

Setting the stage for the 2022 gubernatorial elections in Alabama and Oklahoma

In reality, Ivey won reelection when she won the Republican primary for the office in May. A Democrat winning the office of the top executive in Alabama would have been a miracle. Her reelection was expected and for proponents of gambling expansion in Alabama, it’s moderately good news.

Ivey hasn’t been among those outspoken proponents. At the same time, she isn’t opposed to the idea. After the last session of the state’s legislature, she expressed that she wished the legislature had put the issue of gambling expansion to Alabama voters.

Over in Oklahoma, the preference of the largest gambling entities in the state was quite clear. A coalition of those tribal authorities not only endorsed Joy Hofmeister but donated to her campaign. That helped make Hofmeister a legitimate challenger to Stitt’s reelection.

Stitt has tried to get tribal casinos to increase their revenue-sharing payments to Oklahoma. In those attempts, Stitt threatened to open Oklahoma up to commercial gambling interests. Thus, the relationship between those authorities and Stitt has been strained.

Now that Stitt has won another term, tribal gaming authorities will have to try to repair that relationship if they want any expansion of their operations in future compact negotiations. In Alabama, Ivey could represent an agreeable partner for gambling interests.

What Ivey’s reelection means for gambling in Alabama

In one way, Ivey keeping her position is somewhat irrelevant to the gambling conversation. She could wield tremendous influence in the later stages of potential gambling expansion in Alabama, though.

The legislature will likely consider a package of gambling proposals in 2023. Among those will be a necessary amendment to Alabama’s constitution that would allow for new gambling forms like brick-and-mortar casinos, online sports betting, and a state lottery.

In Alabama, the process of amending the state’s constitution sidesteps the governor altogether. Amendment proposals require supermajorities in both chambers of the Alabama legislature and then proceed directly to voters for final approval.

Should a gambling amendment clear all those bars, Alabama will need to pass enabling legislation to implement a regulated system for gambling in the state. Those bills will need Ivey’s approval to become law. Thus, Ivey can have a significant role in that implementation.

It’s also likely that she would appoint at least some members of new gaming regulatory bodies in Alabama. That’s completely contingent on an amendment proposal not only clearing the legislature but getting majority support from Alabama voters, however. On both counts, that could be a tall order.

Thus, Alabama voters will still have to wait to see how their latest choice for governor will handle gambling in the state. For Oklahomans, that choice should have a more certain and immediate effect.

Casinos face four more years of Stitt’s administration in Oklahoma

With Stitt retaining office, any future expansion of gambling in Oklahoma becomes a more precarious position for tribal casino operators. Any presentation to him of new casino sites or added gaming at existing sites will likely be met with a demand for a greater share of casino revenue.

Furthermore, future attempts to expand gambling in Oklahoma’s legislature could be complicated. Any bill that would grant tribal operators more control over gaming in Oklahoma without also requiring increased payments from the same might get a veto from Stitt.

If tribal authorities and Stitt both stick to their guns, any compact negotiations could see delays if not stand-offs. At the same time, Stitt can’t unilaterally open Oklahoma up to commercial gambling. He would need the support of the legislature and the state’s voters to do that.

At the very least, tribal casino operators did not get the result they wanted in this election. To what degree that will complicate their future is uncertain right now.

Photo by AP/PlayUSA/Sue Ogrocki/Vasha Hunt
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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a lead writer for PlayUSA. Helling focuses on breaking news, including legislation and litigation in the gaming industry. He enjoys reading hundreds of pages of a gambling bill or lawsuit for his audience. Helling completed his journalism degree at the University of Iowa.

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