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Why Oklahoma Sports Betting Talks Didn’t Get Off The Ground In 2024

Oklahoma Indian tribes, legislators and the governor have all expressed interest in legalizing sports betting. Yet, the issue didn’t advance at all this legislative session.

Oklahoma State Capitol
Photo by Sue Ogrocki/AP file photo
Matthew Kredell Avatar
5 mins read

Oklahoma Indian tribes, legislators and the governor have all expressed interest in legalizing sports betting. Yet, the issue didn’t advance at all this legislative session.

PlayUSA spoke with Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association Chairman Matthew Morgan about why Oklahoma sports betting efforts stalled and what needs to change for them to move forward in the future.

“Nothing really went on with sports betting this session,” Morgan said. “I think part of that was other tribal-state relations issues took up a lot of oxygen in the room. Legislative leadership never showed any desire to take up sports betting, probably because they knew it would be a lot of work since we didn’t have an agreement in place.”

And with the state struggling to establish online sports betting, online casino discussions are even further off.

Oklahoma 2024 legislative session

Entering the year, an Oklahoma sports betting bill already had passed in the House and sat in the Senate.

Sponsored by Rep. Ken Luttrell and Sen. Bill Coleman, HB1027 carried over to the second year of a two-year session. But the bill never left the Senate Rules Committee.

Coleman told local TV station KTUL that the Senate didn’t put effort into the bill knowing that tribal exclusivity over retail and online sports betting faced a roadblock with the governor.

“The leadership felt that it was something that was not going to be able to be put into law just by us passing it out of the Senate,” Coleman told the station. “There had to be more steps to take place.”

Before the session, Gov. Kevin Stitt made a proposal to give Oklahoma tribes exclusivity over retail sports betting but allow commercial operators to enter the state and offer online sports betting untethered. Sen. Casey Murdock filed SB1434 representing the governor’s plan.

The Oklahoma legislative session concluded May 31. Neither bill advanced out of committee.

Oklahoma governor and tribes continue to have issues

Oklahoma gaming tribes operate under one joint compact approved by voters in a 2004 ballot referendum.

When Stitt took office in 2019, he said the compact expired after 15 years and attempted to negotiate new compacts with individual tribes.

Tribes sued, arguing that the compacts automatically renewed for a 15-year term. A state district court ruled in their favor.

But first, Stitt entered into new compacts with four tribes. Multiple lawsuits ensued. In April, the Oklahoma Supreme Court determined that Stitt couldn’t unilaterally enter compacts with tribes. Compacts must start in the legislature before seeking approval of the governor.

“I can’t tell you that our relationship with this governor six years in is any better than it was year one,” Morgan said.

In 2020, the US Supreme Court determined to return three million acres of land to the Muscogee Creek Nation, meaning that tribal reservations make up 40% of the land in Oklahoma.

The decision brings ramifications for state income tax for people who live and work on the expanded reservation, tobacco compacts, vehicle licensing and other tribal issues that tribes are still working on with Stitt and the legislature. Morgan explained:

“While it will be difficult to find an agreement based on our previous interactions with the governor, we have been able move some other topics forward. We continue to work on other topics to improve tribal-state relations. They may need to get done before sports betting.”

Oklahoma tribes still need to figure out online sports betting

Oklahoma tribes actually began discussions on brick-and-mortar sports betting with the Oklahoma legislature in 2015-16, years before the US Supreme Court overturned PASPA.

“I’m disappointed that Oklahoma was not at the forefront of this movement,” Morgan said. “From my perspective, there’s an easy path forward. I think there’s a middle ground but there also needs to be motivation for each side to come to the table and get it done, and we haven’t seen that.”

However, that doesn’t mean Oklahoma tribes have sports betting all figured out.

For retail, it’s pretty easy. They all want it. And they don’t want to redo their compact to get it. They want it added as a supplement to their compact.

Morgan said some tribes have even began renovating spaces that they would like to utilize as sportsbooks in the future.

When it comes to online sports betting, Oklahoma tribes are more split. They know they want exclusivity if it comes to the state. But, similarly to in California, there are too many tribes for all to find a good sports betting partner.

“It gets more complicated when you talk about mobile instead of just on-premise,” Morgan said. “There’s 38 federally recognized tribes in Oklahoma, 35 with the ability to offer gaming and 33 currently in the gaming industry. So it does add a level of complexity. While no decisions have been made on how to address online gaming among the tribes, I think our members are more educated now and understand the potential for the market.”

Morgan added that US Supreme Court decision expected this month on the Seminole Tribe’s method of offering statewide online sports betting on tribal lands under IGRA could help spark Oklahoma tribal discussions.

“We’ve talked about what tribes are doing in other states and what mobile means. We haven’t talked through the process of what we do or don’t want,” Morgan said. “The West Flagler decision I think will be very impactful for our members. It’s something we’re watching very closely to see what the Supreme Court says on that case.”

Election year could impact future Oklahoma efforts

All Oklahoma House representatives and one-third of the state Senate are up for re-election this November. There will also be new legislative leadership in each chamber as the House Speaker and Senate President Pro Tempore term out.

That legislative shakeup could make 2025 an educational year for sports betting and tribal issues in general.

“We’ll have elections at the state and federal level, so we’ll see who is there and what are the priorities of the new legislative group,” Morgan said. “If and when the state is ready to discuss sports betting, I know our OIGA members are ready to have that conversation. But we’re not going to make a bad deal on this. We’re not going to somehow mess up what we have in the gaming compact and we’re also not going to put our operators at risk.”

Stitt has another two years in office. Oklahoma tribes might want to wait him out and see if the next governor doesn’t insist on letting commercial sports betting operators into the state.

Morgan concluded:

“We’re patient. It took Oklahoma a long time to offer a Class III gaming compact. IGRA passed in 1988 and we did not get the gaming compact we’re under today until a 2004 initiative. We had one supplement addition for roulette and craps. If they want to talk sports betting, we’re open to it but we’re not in a hurry because we understand the political dynamics in the state we live in.”

Matthew Kredell Avatar
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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 and has interviewed more than 300 state lawmakers around the country.

View all posts by 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 and has interviewed more than 300 state lawmakers around the country.

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