The Status of Sports Betting in Oklahoma Remains Up in the Air

profile image of Dave Grendzynski
Fans of the Oklahoma Sooners react during a game against the TCU Horned Frogs at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. Wesley Hitt/Getty Images/AFP

Oklahoma, known for its vibrant tribal casinos and robust gambling sector, has been eyeing the possibility of regulated sports betting. In 2023, House Bill 1027 (HB1027), which aimed to legalize sports gambling in the state, passed in the House and made it into the rules committee. However, it has been stuck there ever since, awaiting further action.

This happened even though three of Oklahoma’s border states have already legalized sports betting. Additionally, the Sooner State has yet to legalize sports betting despite having the most tribal casinos (over 130) of any state.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt publicly voiced his frustration over failed efforts to bring sports betting to Oklahoma.

“I’ve studied what other states have done, and there are 35 other states that have a sports betting system, and so we can see exactly how that’s set up,” Stitt told News 9. “Let’s just get this across the finish line. Maybe we’ll come in and work on that next year, but I certainly want us to get something across the finish line that’s fair for Oklahomans.”

Oklahoma’s 2024 Sports Betting Proposal 

Earlier this year, Governor Stitt put forth a plan to legalize sports betting in Oklahoma. The proposal aimed to allow retail sports betting at tribal casinos and gaming establishments across the state. Additionally, online wagering would be facilitated through the Oklahoma Lottery Commission (OLC).

Here are the key points from Stitt’s plan:

  • Retail Betting: Operators offering in-person sportsbooks would be taxed at a 15% rate.
  • Online Sportsbooks: Online platforms would face a higher tax rate of 20%.
  • Licensing Fee: A $100,000 annual licensing fee would grant market access.

Despite these efforts, Stitt’s plan did not receive the backing of Oklahoma tribes

The Legislative Landscape Hinges on Tribal Rights

The tribes in Oklahoma hold exclusive gaming rights, a privilege they paid for. To move forward with sports betting, the state must secure the tribes’ cooperation. Unfortunately, strained relations between tribal leaders and the governor have complicated negotiations. Despite efforts to improve this relationship, both parties lack the will to sit down and find common ground.

Senator Bill Coleman, the Senate author of HB1027, acknowledges the widespread support for legalizing sports betting among legislators. However, he also knows that progress has been hindered due to the lack of an agreement between the state and tribal nations on how sports gambling would operate in Oklahoma.

SB 1434 Included Tribal Right But Also Failed to Progress

In February, Sen. Casey Murdock introduced SB 1434, a bill designed to permit Oklahoma tribes to offer sports wagering through contracts with the Oklahoma Lottery Commission (OLC). The bill authorizes “sports pool retailers” to operate sports betting, provided they obtain licenses from the OLC. 

The bill was referred to Oklahoma’s Rules and Appropriations Committees. Although it passed its second readings, it did not advance before the state’s third reading deadline in March.

A Glimmer of Hope in Oklahoma

While HB1027 didn’t advance this year, Senator Coleman remains optimistic. He plans to reintroduce a similar bill next year, alongside Representative Ken Luttrell. Their strategy? Writing mirror bills that address tribal concerns while allowing for legal sports betting. It’s a fresh start, and perhaps this time, the state and tribes can find a path forward.

In the end, bringing sports betting to Oklahoma hinges on collaboration, compromise, and a willingness to roll up sleeves. As the legislative process continues, Oklahomans eagerly await the day when they can legally place their bets on their favorite teams.