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Oklahoma Sports Betting Remains Complicated As Tribes Oppose New Bill

Written By Matthew Kredell on February 21, 2024
Oklahoma state Sen. Casey Murdock

A spokesperson for Oklahoma Indian tribes considers a new Oklahoma sports betting bill introduced in the Senate as dead on arrival.

Earlier this month, Sen. Casey Murdock (above) filed SB 1434. The bill would give tribes exclusivity over brick-and-mortar sports betting in the state but allow untethered access for commercial operators to offer statewide online sports betting.

Much of Murdock’s proposal comes from a sports betting plan offered by Gov. Kevin Stitt in November.

Matthew Morgan, chairman of the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association, told PlayUSA that the bill is a non-starter with the tribes:

“Sen. Murdock has offered a bill very much aligned with some of the thoughts presented by Gov. Stitt. Our membership made clear when Gov. Stitt brought it forth that moving forward with that language would be an immediate violation of our compacts because it allows non-tribal operators into gaming.”

Why tribes oppose OK Senate sports betting proposal

While it’s unclear what Oklahoma tribes would collectively support in an Oklahoma sports betting proposal, it is clear what they won’t support.

“Tribes are not going to let commercial gaming in, OK,” Morgan said. “That’s just how it is.”

In general, OIGA wants tribal exclusivity for sports betting and doesn’t want the addition to interfere with current compacts.

Murdock’s bill would give tribes exclusivity over in-person sports betting. However, it would open the state to unlimited commercial entities operating online sports betting apps.

Other details of HB 1423 include:

  • Appoints the Oklahoma Lottery Commission to oversee sports betting.
  • Taxes online sports betting at 20% and in-person sports betting at 15%.
  • Assesses an initial fee of $500,000 and annual renewal fee of $100,000 for an online sports betting license.
  • Appropriates 1% of tax revenue to the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services to treat people who may suffer from gambling addiction.
  • Prohibits wagering on individual performances of college athletes.

Some tribes support another Oklahoma sports betting bill

Last year, the Oklahoma House passed a sports betting bill. And it sits in the Senate today.

Sponsored by Rep. Ken Luttrell, HB 1027 was passed along to the Senate with a 66-26 vote.

Although the Senate did not take up the bill last year, it carried over to the second year of the session.

Luttrell’s bill gives Oklahoma tribes exclusivity over in-person and online sports betting.

Not all Oklahoma tribes support the bill. Some are supportive, some want technical changes and others took a wait-and-see approach.

“I think Rep. Latrell has done a really good job talking with a lot of stakeholders and trying to tailor a bill that fits within the legal parameters in this state while also trying to provide additional revenue for the state by authorizing tribes to operate a sports betting activity,” Morgan said.

Similar to tribes in California, Oklahoma tribes aren’t on the same page with sports betting. Some want online sports betting while some want to start with sports betting as an amenity to their tribal casinos.

The Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association represents 29 of 33 active Oklahoma gaming tribes. Morgan said tribes are willing to discuss what Oklahoma sports betting looks like, if it’s retail only, mobile plus retail, what bets are excluded and how tribes share revenue with the state. But it has to start from a place of tribal exclusivity. Online sportsbook operators could enter the state only as vendors to tribes.

“We wait to see what the interest is from legislative leadership and Gov. Stitt. If they’re interested, we’re willing to have conversations. But we’re not willing to sit down and negotiate with ourselves in a vacuum. And there’s no point in having discussions on things that are illegal from the start and violate the compact, nor proposals that don’t makes any economic sense.”

Governor and tribes need to resolve beef

There likely is the will to pass Oklahoma sports betting in the Senate if the tribes and the governor are on board with the language.

Rep. Steve Bashore explained to PlayUSA:

“The legislature is very pro-tribe. We understand the impacts of what the tribes do, and we’re talking other than the $2.2 billion that tribes have shared in the lives of the compacts just from gaming.

“In the House and Senate, we have a supermajority of Republicans. Our governor, Kevin Stitt, also is a Republican. So you would think we would be able to get this policy done as we’re all on the same page. That’s not how it has worked out, unfortunately. Our governor is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation himself but seems to be at odds with the tribes.”

In 2004, Oklahoma voters approved a referendum to allow Class III tribal gaming that included a model compact each tribe could enter into. Tribal compacts have provided the state about $2.2 billion in revenue share since 2004.

Tensions between the governor and tribes began in 2019 when the newly elected Stitt wanted to renegotiate compacts with tribes to bring more money to the state. He said that tribal gaming compacts with the state would expire Jan. 1, 2000. Tribes sued, arguing that the compacts automatically renewed for a 15-year term. A state district court ruled in their favor.

Oklahoma tribes and the governor have been at odds ever since.

“You talk to him one-on-one and he’ll say I want to work with the tribes and get things done,” Bashore said of the governor. “But when it comes down to the actual negotiations, there still seems to be roadblocks. Some of us aren’t optimistic that we will get sportsbook until he terms out in three years. But some of us think, as time goes on, some things will give and we can get passed that.”

Oklahoma sports betting deal unlikely in 2024

For sports betting to move forward in Oklahoma, Stitt and the tribes need to improve relations. Or the tribes can wait until a new governor takes over in 2027.

Oklahoma’s legislative session runs to May 31. Morgan said he hasn’t given up on a sports betting model acceptable to tribes passing this year.

“In our state, you never know when something may catch fire and move quickly, but we’re also not going to move hastily to make a bad deal just because the governor wants to turn his attention to sports betting. There’s a deal to be had if all stakeholders want to make it.”

And before the state even considers Oklahoma online casinos, a sports betting deal would likely come first. Please keep track of iGaming legislation through our online casino bill tracker.

Photo by Sue Ogrocki/AP file photo of Sen. Casey Murdock
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Matthew Kredell

Matthew Kredell serves as senior lead writer of legislative affairs involving online gambling at PlayUSA. He began covering efforts to legalize and regulate online gambling in 2007 after federal passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act disrupted his hobby of playing small-stakes online poker. He has since interviewed more than 300 lawmakers around the country and written extensively about online gambling legislation. He has led coverage of bills to legalize online gambling in most states. A lifelong Angeleno and USC journalism alum, Matthew started his career working as a sportswriter for a decade at the Los Angeles Daily News. He has written on a variety of topics for Playboy Magazine, Men’s Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly and ESPN.com.

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