Oklahoma House Approves Tribal Digital Wagering Bill

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An Oklahoma sports betting bill that would put tribes in charge under legalization passed through the state House Tuesday and is headed for Senate consideration.

The legislative action was one of many across the country during a week when the Missouri House sent a digital sports betting bill to the Senate, a North Carolina bill began quickly working its way through the House, and a Texas committee spent nearly a full day discussing what legal wagering could look like in that state.

Oklahoma borders Texas and is already home to casino tribal gaming, including the well-known WinStar Casino, which is owned by the Chickasaw Nation and has a partnership with the Dallas Cowboys. Among Oklahoma’s six border states, Arkansas, Colorado, and Kansas all offer digital wagering.

HB 1027 would allow for retail and digital sports betting in Oklahoma, while requiring the tribes to share revenue with the state on a sliding scale from 4-6% of revenue, depending on how much money a sportsbook takes in each month. The bulk of the tax dollars would be earmarked for educational initiatives.

The House voted 66-26 Tuesday to move the bill forward, and it has already been received by the Senate and given a first reading. The vote beat the legislature’s crossover deadline by two days, and lawmakers now have until the May 26 adjournment date to hammer out details if it is to be enacted.

Tribal association in wait-and-see mode

The bill would require that at least four tribes recompact for sports betting with the state, and it also appears to allow for some wagering at existing horse racetracks. A model compact is included in the proposal, which streamlines the compacting process for tribes and the state.

Oklahoma is the second-biggest tribal gaming state in the U.S. behind California. It has about 40 tribes that operate more than 100 casinos, ranging in size from the sprawling WinStar to slot parlors.

The state’s tribes have long been at odds with Gov. Kevin Stitt, who in 2020 compacted with two tribes, only to see those tribes expelled from the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association (OIGA) and the state attorney general to say that compacts “are not authorized by the state Tribal Gaming Act.” The compacts were ultimately approved by the U.S. Department of the Interior, but they faced legal challenges and the two tribes never offered sports betting.

OIGA has been monitoring the current legislation, according to The Oklahoman, but isn’t quite ready to endorse it.

“OIGA looks forward to staying engaged as this legislation is taken up by the Senate,” OIGA Chairman Matt Morgan told the newspaper.


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