The Odds of Legalizing Oklahoma Sports Betting in 2023 are on the Rise

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Apr 9, 2024 08:00 PM
The Odds of Legalizing Oklahoma Sports Betting in 2023 are on the Rise

If you need proof how quickly policy discussion can change, look no further than the outlook on sports betting in Oklahoma.

Not too long ago, it looked like Oklahoma sports betting was a long shot. Various bills and proposals had the outright support of state Governor Kevin Stitt, but it wasn't clear whether the most popular measures had the votes necessary to reach the Senate floor. Dicey relations between Mr. Stitt and the state's tribes didn't help matters. The tension there has been building for years, ever since the Oklahoma governor negotiated gaming compacts with four smaller tribes that rubbed others the wrong way.

Rewind the discussion a couple of months, and it actually looked like Oklahoma sports betting would not make it to the Senate floor, let alone have a chance of going even further. What's changed since? A whole lot apparently.

The latest sports betting bill for Oklahoma is officially headed to the Senate, and many are optimistic that it has the support necessary to gain approval. Does this mean we can expect gambling to reach The Sooner State very, ahem, soon? Are there any potential roadblocks still standing between Oklahoma sports betting and legalization? How did the latest bill overcome an outlook that looked bleak mere months ago? Let's explore it all.

How the 2023 Oklahoma Sports Betting Bill Made It to the Senate Floor

Referred to as House Bill 1027 (HB 1027), the newest sports gambling bill needed to glean majority support from the Oklahoma House of Representatives to clear its next hurdle. People weren't quite sure how the vote would go. The House has nudged away similar proposals in the past.

As it turns out, there was no reason to be concerned. The Oklahoma sports betting bill passed through the House with a 2-1-ratio majority. That's a decisive victory for what's considered a fringe state. The Senate floor is HB 1027's next stop. And while making it this far is no doubt a good sign, it doesn't mean sports betting advocates should be celebrating a victory. There are more hoops to clear, as The Oklahoman's Dale Denwalt recently explained in an article:

"The bill is essentially halfway through the legislative process. After passing the House, the bill moves across the chamber where it will begin the Senate committee process. The current structure of the bill ensures that even if it passes the Senate, it will eventually land in a conference committee to hash out any final adjustments. The final version of the bill would then have to be given approval, again, by both the House and Senate."

At the moment, it isn't clear whether HB 1027 has the majority support of Senate members. There's also skepticism that Oklahoma tribes, which have exclusive gaming rights, are ready to throw their weight behind this bill.

Oklahoma Tribes Appear on the Fence About House Bill 1027

Hesitation from Oklahoma tribes seems counterintuitive on the surface. House Bill 1027 doesn't strip them of their gaming exclusivity. If anything, those rights are being expanded. Licensed tribal operations would be allowed to accept bets both in-person and online without worrying about the arrival of corporate sportsbooks. 

Gaming licenses would not be independently awarded to a list of the best online sportsbooks under the terms of HB 1027. They would be allowed to partner with Oklahoma tribes for their online operations, but corporate bookmakers wouldn't have the right to accept wagers under their own umbrella. Even so, the state's nearly three dozen tribes remain undecided. As Denwalt also wrote:

There is no consensus yet among leaders of the 35 tribes that operate gaming in Oklahoma. Every tribal nation has unique factors to consider, such as costs, geography and competition. But Matt Morgan, chair of the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association, has said tribes are cautious of upending the existing state-tribal model gaming compact, which covers slot machines with random odds and some types of table games. 'OIGA looks forward to staying engaged as this legislation is taken up by the Senate,' Morgan said."

Competition looms as the biggest sticking point for tribes unsure about the benefits of 1027. Oklahoma tribal nations wouldn't have to contend with corporate sportsbooks, but they would have to face off against one another. This isn't a huge deal when looking at on-site wagering. Tribal nations understand the markets in which they already operate. It's a different story when it comes to online sports betting in Oklahoma. Tribal operations in the most rural parts of the state could find themselves at a disadvantage when it comes to marketing and reach—especially if corporate sportsbooks are less likely to partner up with them to run mobile services.

When Will We Know More About California Sports Betting?

There is currently no concrete timeline for the Oklahoma Senate to decide on HB 1027. They have already had the proposal in their hands for a couple of weeks, and they've yet to provide any additional updates.

However, there is a "Must approve by" date baked into the proceedings. The 2023 Oklahoma legislature meetings will adjourn on May 26, 2023. That's a little over a month from this writing. The Senate will need to vote on the matter before then.

Without any public insight into which way the Senate is leaning, we'd be remiss to offer an Oklahoma sports betting prediction. Definitive resolutions are more important than forecasts anyway. And rest assured, a resolution to Oklahoma sports gambling is coming soon.

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Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan Favale leverages over 12 years of sports journalism expertise in his role as New York staff writer. He provides in-depth analysis across the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, tennis, NASCAR, college basketball, and sports betting. Dan co-hosts the popular Hardwood Knocks NBA podc...

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