Oklahoma Governor Proposes Sports Betting, Ignites Controversy

Many politicians were caught off guard when Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt revealed his proposal to allow sports betting in the state, sparking a heated debate. The news has caused legislators, lobbyists, and indigenous groups to have a flurry of conversations and worries. With the lifting of the federal ban in 2018, an increasing number of states have allowed sports wagering; Oklahoma is hoping to join this expanding list with this abrupt proposal.

Unveiling the Plan and Tribal Compacts

Under Governor Stitt’s proposal, mobile betting will be available along with the legalization of sports betting in establishments run by tribes that have received federal recognition. For internet betting enterprises, the plan includes an annual renewal charge of $100,000 in addition to an initial license price of $500,000. It also proposes a 15% tax on earnings from live betting and a 20% levy on wagers made via mobile devices. It’s crucial to remember, though, that states are not able to impose taxes on tribal casinos.

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Alternatively, “fees” that tribes pay to states in return for “exclusivity” in the gaming industry may be included in state-tribal gaming agreements. Governor Stitt plans to create exclusivity fees for tribal sports betting, but it is unclear how he would approve non-tribal sportsbooks.

Challenges on the Horizon

The next task for Governor Stitt is to win over the state legislature and tribal nations, which will not be easy considering the past conflicts and the legislature’s propensity to side with native interests. Due to objections from the larger tribal nations, Stitt’s new gaming compacts with smaller tribes were recently rejected by the Joint Committee on State-Tribal Relations.

Speaker of the House Charles McCall has called a critical conference to discuss the state’s tribal compacts. It will bring together leaders and legal officials from notable tribal countries, including the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Cherokee, and Muscogee nations. The result of this meeting is highly awaited since it might have a big influence on Oklahoma’s sports betting industry going forward.

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Since his first year in office, Governor Stitt has promoted sports betting, initially receiving backing from Republican legislators. However, since then, state-tribal ties and budget discussions have soured his relationship with many Republican lawmakers.

The House of the Oklahoma Legislature recently passed HB 1027, a bill that permits tribes to provide sports betting on mobile devices as well as in-person. The measure was adopted by the House, but the Senate never held a hearing on it. There is a chance that it will be brought back during the next normal session, which begins on February 5, 2024.

State-tribal ties have been strained by Governor Stitt’s surprise sports betting plan, which might introduce internet sports wagering that is not tribal and clash with current agreements. Currently, tribal nations pay the state significant amounts each month in exchange for the privilege to exclusively operate casinos.

The Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association voiced its displeasure, highlighting the governor’s lack of prior input on his sports betting proposal. Senate President Greg Treat and House Speaker Charles McCall both attested to the lack of earlier correspondence.

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There are still a lot of moving parts and interests to take into account in the next discussions and negotiations about Oklahoma’s legalization of sports betting. Everyone concerned is looking forward to the issue’s conclusion.

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