Oklahoma Sports Betting Bill Still Has a Pulse

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Oklahoma Sooners fans cheer against the Texas Longhorns. Richard W. Rodriguez/Getty Images/AFP.

Sports betting in Oklahoma is in limbo, as March 23 is the deadline to pass this year’s version of a sports betting bill in the state, but the question is whether lawmakers will make it a priority on the legislative agenda.

Bill Has Governor’s Support

Even if Rep. Ken Luttrell’s HB 1027 sports betting bill did pass during this legislative session, the actual launch of online sportsbooks probably wouldn’t occur until sometime in 2024. Nevertheless, the bill must crawl before it can walk, and making its way through the House Committee on Appropriations and Budget by a 27-4 vote was a positive sign.

“It’s a good thing the bill was kept alive,” an industry source said. “But it’s a placeholder at best for what may or may not transpire.”

This is Luttrell’s second consecutive bite at the apple for sports betting in the state as his attempt last year died in the House. According to reports, there is a measurable gap between Governor Kevin Stitt’s vision of sports betting and that of the Native American tribes operating casino betting in the state.

Governor Stitt tweeted, “Let me be clear: I support sports betting in Oklahoma – provided that it’s fair, transparent, and the state can maximize revenue potential to invest in top priorities, like education. More to come.”

What’s the Deal?

The state’s compacts with the tribes would have to be modified to accommodate sports betting legislation and it would take at least four of the tribes currently operating in Oklahoma to make the amendment.

The way the current legislation is written, the tribes, which have gaming exclusivity in the state, would pay taxes on the following sliding scale:

  • 4% for the first $5 million.
  • 5% on the next $5 million.
  • 6% on anything above $10 million.

Governor Stitt has repeatedly stated that his primary intention is to see whatever monies are generated from sports betting maximized with the state getting its fair share. However, Stitt’s idea of a fair share is markedly different from how the tribes see it. And that, in a nutshell, is the primary rift between the parties.

“I’m just trying to set the big vision and say, here’s what I’m looking for … Let’s go make this happen. Let’s make sure we learn from these other 40 states, or 25, or however many already have the sportsbook,” Stitt told The Oklahoman. “And let’s roll out Oklahoma’s similar, to maximize the profit or maximize the income for our education system, or for our economic development or wherever we’re going to designate those funds that come into the state.”

Tribal Leaders and Legislators’ Apathy

Matthew Morgan, the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association Chairman, said in an interview that some of the tribal leaders are uneasy at the prospect of working with the governor.

“I think we can all agree sports betting is occurring already in the state and that the state and tribes would love to add that as a form of gaming,” Morgan told the Tulsa World. “But what does that proposal really look like in terms of who’s taking the risk and how the revenue is split up?”

But perhaps the biggest obstacle in front of the current sports betting bill is apathy from some of the legislators who don’t believe a sports betting bill is a priority.

Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, a somewhat neutral party of sports betting in the state said, “The governor putting his weight behind it will make a difference probably, but I want to make sure everything we do is comprehensive. So, I’m not saying, ‘Let’s go pass sports betting,’ and be done with it unless we have a comprehensive discussion.”

*Bookmakers Review will continue to monitor this story and update our readers as events unfold.