Oklahoma Sports Wagering Looks Unpromising for Near Future
- Internal disputes among prominent Native American tribes delay all sports wagering prospects
- Recent Oklahoma legislative disputes involving gaming predict a rough road toward the future
- While casinos boom all over Oklahoma it seems sports gamblers will be left waiting for a while
Although recent months progress looked optimistic it looks like the latest developments in formulating a successful compact among local Native American tribes bringing sports wagering to Oklahoma has taken a negative turn.
Local newspaper The Oklahoman has reported that sports betting is no closer to reality after two Native American tribes announced they would still adhere to gaming compacts the state supreme court invalidated last month. Although the two tribes technically can open sportsbooks in deals struck with the Oklahoma governor earlier this year, officials are holding off until state lawmakers change existing statutes,
In effect, the Comanche Nation and Otoe-Missouria Tribe’s decision to honor these compacts that were instituted in 2020 instead of the previous agreement in 2005 is the overriding hurdle in getting Oklahoma no closer to any confirmed deal for legalized sports wagering. It also unfortunately will further mitigate many existing and past discussions that have clouded over the US second largest tribal gaming market next to California.
Recent Oklahoma Gaming History
Back on June 8th, the federal government approved new gambling compacts between Oklahoma and two tribal nations, However, Governor Kevin Stitt remained locked in a legal dispute over tribal gambling with the Comanche and Otoe-Missouria tribes and legislative leaders from his own party.
At that time, the compacts between Oklahoma and the two tribes were both “deemed approved” by the US Department of the Interior following the expiration of a 45-day review period.
In a prepared statement, Stitt praised the leaders of the two tribes “who worked hard to secure fair terms for their citizens, and whose contributions throughout the negotiations ensured a more level playing field and modernized gaming market in Oklahoma.
The new compacts back in June authorized the tribes to offer additional forms of gambling, most importantly to include sports betting and to build new casinos closer to metropolitan areas giving the state a larger cut of the revenue. Although at that time it was not clear when either of those might occur.
As perhaps the best bet forecasting sign, the state’s Republican Attorney General Mike Hunter had said sports gambling remains illegal under state law, and any attempt by the two tribes to build new casinos would likely face opposition from other tribes already operating casinos in those areas.
Reinforcing that prediction, Stephen Greetham, senior counsel for the Chickasaw Nation, one of the tribes that have sued Governor Stitt over existing gambling compacts, said:
The new agreements are only authorized to the extent that they don’t violate federal law. The risk of the agreements’ illegality remains with Governor Stitt and the two signing Tribes, and since several federal law defects have already been publicly documented, more litigation is likely.
While this is occurring, the governor remains locked in a legal dispute with 10 other Oklahoma-based tribal nations. Three of the state’s most powerful tribes which include the Cherokee, Chickasaw, and Choctaw nations sued the governor late last year. A key point of contention is whether the compacts signed 15 years ago automatically renewed on Jan. 1, 2020. Stitt’s position is that the compacts expired, while the tribes contend all requirements were met for the compacts to renew for another 15 years.
The Current Sports Wagering Line in Oklahoma
Overall, the casino gaming industry is booming in Oklahoma. They currently count 130 total casino locations spread upon resorts, gas stations, and of course Native American land. It was reported that close to $150 million was paid to the state through gaming fees, all projected for public schools. The internal fight over the bringing sports wagering along is of course a lose-lose proposition for many involved in the state, starting with the schools.
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Larry Gibbs is both a seasoned journalist and a respected online gaming industry consultant. His wry commentary & sharp analysis have appeared in numerous top gaming and sports wagering publications. He has also served as Vice President of US Gaming Services, a marketing research organization with 15 years of experience in US online wagering. He has spoken at noted gaming industry conferences including G2E, GiGSE, and NCLGS.