Oklahoma Lawmaker Calls For Legalization Of Tribal Sports Betting

January 13, 2022
Another attempt to legalize sports betting at tribal casinos in Oklahoma has begun after a new bill was filed in the state legislature, as the tribal gaming industry’s top lobbyist suggests tribes are willing to at least consider the issue.


Another attempt to legalize sports betting at tribal casinos in Oklahoma has begun after a new bill was filed in the state legislature, as the tribal gaming industry’s top lobbyist suggests tribes are willing to at least consider the issue.

Republican state Representative Ken Luttrell introduced House Bill 3008 on Monday. The proposal would allow in-person wagering under the existing model gaming compact.

Mobile sports betting is not included in the proposal.

The bill proposes a 10 percent revenue-share on net sports wagering revenues. Under the existing compacts, tribes pay the state exclusivity fees between 4 percent and 10 percent on gambling revenue in exchange for the exclusive rights to operate Class III gaming.

Luttrell's bill had not been referred to a committee as of Wednesday due to lawmakers not convening their 2022 legislature session in Oklahoma City until February 7. Lawmakers have a January 20 deadline to formally introduce bills and joint resolutions for the upcoming session.

Matthew Morgan, chairman of the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association (OIGA), confirmed Luttrell gave tribes a “heads up that he was going to file this,” but the association has not had a chance to poll its members yet.

Morgan called Luttrell’s bill a conversation starter. He said any dialogue between lawmakers and tribes would need to center around whether the proposal makes economic sense for tribes.

“We are still in a wait and see period,” Morgan told VIXIO GamblingCompliance. “We don’t know what the appetite is for sports betting in the legislature. We are open to having a dialogue on the subject.”

The last time the model state-tribal gaming compact was amended was in September 2018, when then-Governor Mary Fallin signed House Bill 3375 allowing for non-house-banked versions of craps and roulette.

Prior to the change, Oklahoma’s 143 tribal casinos could offer games known as Bonus Craps and Bonus Roulette, which used electronic cards instead of roulette wheels and dice, while showing video versions of a wheel spinning and dice being thrown.

The initial version of the bill would also have allowed for sports betting, but any reference to wagering on games was removed before a final vote.

In 2020, Republican Governor Kevin Stitt tried to legalize sports betting by signing compacts with the Kialegee Tribal Town and United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians.

Neither compact received legislative approval. Both compacts were eventually struck down by the Oklahoma Supreme Court in 2021 after the state’s high court ruled against other amended compacts that Stitt had signed with the Comanche Nation and Otoe-Missouria tribes.

The state's Supreme Court determined because Stitt negotiated different terms to those included in a model gaming compact approved by voters in 2004, and without approval of a joint legislative committee, the agreements were not valid.

In a statement announcing his bill, Luttrell did not mention the previous unsuccessful efforts to legalize sports betting in Oklahoma.

"I feel the time is right for Oklahoma to partner with the tribes and ensure a level, competitive gaming playing field with the surrounding states," Luttrell said.

Currently, there are 30 states and the District of Columbia with legal sports betting.

Luttrell reminded his colleagues that neighboring Arkansas has legalized retail wagering, with a state joint legislative committee set to approve amended sports-betting rules for mobile wagering at their next meeting on January 28. Arkansas has offered land-based sports wagering since July 2019.

Kansas lawmakers also have restarted the process of considering legal sports betting after being unable to solve the differences between Senate and House versions of a bill last year.

Lawmakers on the Kansas Senate Committee on Federal and State Affairs held an hour-long informational hearing on sports betting on Wednesday but said they were still a few weeks away from deciding how to proceed on trying to get a bill through the legislature.

“We have to try and figure out how we get this across the line,” committee chairman Robert Olson said Wednesday after several staff presentations. “We need to figure out these other details because we are missing out on a nice chunk of money.”

“I’m going to be meeting with some of the players next couple of weeks,” Olson added. “I would like to see if we can’t come to a compromise with everyone and maybe run it through the process, so everyone gets a chance to talk about it one more time.”

Louisiana also launched retail sports betting last year after 55 of 64 parishes approved a ballot initiative in November 2020, with mobile wagering expected to begin soon. Meanwhile, Missouri lawmakers have filed multiple sports-betting bills.

When asked if his members were concerned about the rapid pace of nearby states legalizing sports betting, Morgan said tribal gaming operators in Oklahoma are always sensitive to regional competition.

“Losing market share is always a concern of our association and our members,” Morgan said. “We tend not to be a first or second mover in the gaming world.”

Morgan said it was up to the legislature to pass a bill, and that Stitt could veto any measure approved by lawmakers. Messages left with the governor's office on Wednesday were not returned.

If legalized, individual tribes would then decide if they wanted to offer retail sports betting.

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