A recent vote by an Oklahoma legislative committee will either be the first step toward one of the biggest gambling expansions in the state’s history or a note in future stories explaining why Oklahomans still have to travel out of state to place legal wagers on Oklahoma City Thunder games. The committee’s consensus on an Oklahoma sports betting bill is the vote of importance here.
It’s still too early to tell how things will play out. For that reason, hope is still sweepin’ down the plain for the bill’s supporters. The big question now is how many of those there are in Oklahoma City?
Oklahoma sports betting bill survives committee vote
On Monday, the OK House of Representatives Appropriations and Budget General Government Subcommittee gave HB 3008 a “do pass” recommendation to the full Appropriations and Budget Committee. That full committee met on Wednesday afternoon and voted to advance the bill 28-3.
With that, HB 3008 now goes to the full Oklahoma House floor. It’s unclear exactly when the bill will come up for debate and a vote. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Ken Luttrell, has not shied away from stumping for his proposal.
During Monday’s subcommittee meeting, Luttrell said that new income for the state would be “substantial.” He also mentioned job creation happening as a result of the legalization of sports betting. Luttrell is not a member of the Appropriations and Budget Committee.
Oklahomans should note that this bill would not authorize online sports betting in their state. It would merely add in-person sports betting to the types of gaming that the state’s 131 tribal casinos can offer to customers.
That point might be why some of those tribal casinos hesitate to fully support Luttrell’s bill. That hesitation could, in turn, become contagious in the Oklahoma legislature and/or with Gov. Kevin Stitt.
Could tribal casinos kill off Luttrell’s bill?
Thus far, it seems that the reception from Oklahoma tribal casino operators is lukewarm. Kim Jarrett of The Center Square reports concerns about the bill as relayed to her by Matthew Morgan, the chair of the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association.
“Almost all of the association is very interested in sports betting,” Morgan stated. “But we do have some folks that are very interested in the mobile aspect of sports betting, which Rep. Luttrell’s bill does not capture. And we also have some concerns from our members on what [the] fee split would look like given the low margin of sports betting. I think they would like to see that reworked in a way that would make them more likely to support something in that way.”
Under the terms of their current compacts, the tribal casinos in the state pay a graduated share to the state of their revenue from slots. That caps out at 6%. They pay a flat 10% on revenue from table games.
Luttrell’s proposal would require the casinos to match that 10% rate on their hold from sports betting. To gain broader support from the tribal casino operators, he might need to reduce that rate and give them the option to offer online wagering.
If he can’t get a strong coalition of tribal support behind his bill, that could spell doom for his proposal. He’s already likely facing some resistance in the governor’s mansion if his bill gets that far.
Stitt might oppose expansion of tribal exclusivity
The danger for Luttrell in reducing the revenue share rate to appease tribal casino operators is that doing so might further inspire Stitt to veto the bill. The governor probably already has some opposition to it.
Stitt has been vocal in the past of his displeasure with tribal exclusivity over gaming in the state. That came to a head most recently late in 2019, when the compacts last came up for renewal. Stitt wanted to get a higher share for the state and said he had commercial operators willing to give the state 18% of their revenue.
At whatever rate, Luttrell’s bill would give Oklahoma tribal casinos control over another form of gambling. For that reason alone, he could veto it. Stitt hasn’t commented on HB 3008 one way or the other yet, though.
However, Stitt is up for reelection this fall and faces serious competition from Joy Hofmeister. He could use a veto of Luttrell’s bill and the idea of opening up the state to competition as a campaign tool.
Luttrell will try to appease both sides as he works to convince other members of the OK House to support his legislation. That could require him to barter a deal between Stitt and gaming tribes in the state as well.