That's All, Folks: 2023 Oklahoma Sports Betting Bill is Officially Dead

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: May 9, 2023 08:00 PM
That's All, Folks: 2023 Oklahoma Sports Betting Bill is Officially Dead

Say goodbye to all hopes of sports betting in Oklahoma, at least for the time being. Because, after much hemming and hawing, the latest Oklahoma sports betting bill is officially, unequivocally dead.

This ends yet another drawn out attempt to rewrite the gaming laws in The Sooner State. Many entered this year's round of legislative meetings with an air of optimism. Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt had shown plenty of interest in the legalization of sports betting, despite his rocky relationship with local tribes, and there was plenty of dialogue on the subject.

Optimism actually grew midway through the process. Officials seemed open to discussing Oklahoma online sports betting as part of the bill, and there appeared to be a groundswell of support.

Rosy projections reached a fever pitch just a few weeks ago. The bill, known as HB 1027, advanced through the House of Representatives and into the Senate. It seemed then that the odds of legalizing Oklahoma sports betting this year were on the rise.

Of course, we know better now. Whether the initial projections were a smokescreen or total false hope or something else doesn't really matter. Oklahoma will not pass any sports gambling initiatives in 2023. As a result, it will be at least another year before the topic is broached again. The question is, as it's always been: Will the outcome be any different next time around?

So, What Happened to the 2023 Oklahoma Sports Betting Bill?

House Bill 1027 had no trouble making it through the House of Representatives. Ken Luttrell, the house member who proposed the initiative, clung to those results while discussing the future of sports gambling in Oklahoma within a statement he released to the press: "The 66-26 vote in the House demonstrates that legislators fully understand the economic impact, the need for improved regulation of the betting industry, the desire our citizens have for this, and the importance of ensuring a level, competitive playing field for the tribes.”

Support started to fall apart in the Senate. Members expressed concern for the added risk of gambling addiction that has been reported in many states with legal sports betting. Beyond that, the Senate also seemed to doubt whether the governor's office could get the tribes on board.

Oklahoma currently grants gaming exclusivity to their local tribes. Any significant amendment to the state constitution in this arena will effectively require all 39 tribes to sign off on the piece of legislature. Governor Stitt and his office are on the hook for selling any proposals to these tribes. Not only have they failed to do this on repeated occasions, but they have actively drawn the ire of state tribes for attempting workarounds and more forceful legalization methods.

Even so, the tribes have at least indicated an openness to talking shop. This isn't the same as the California sports betting battle, which features a hard-line stance from local tribes almost across the board. The state of Oklahoma, for their part, also seems willing to work with the tribes. Part of HB 1027 included a unique bracket structure that determined taxes and fees. This differs from the policy of most other states, which usually assess a flat rate.

It's tough to say exactly when it became clear tribes might not be on board with HB 1027. Many believe the addition of mobile sports wagering changed the tenor of negotiations. The top online sportsbooks are generally seen as competition to tribal on-site business models. HB 1027 tried to address this by allowing tribal casinos to create their own online operations, either independently or by partnering up with bigger-name operators. It ultimately wasn't enough to convince the Senate that the state's tribes would offer their stamp of approval.

What Does the Future Hold for Sports Gambling in The Sooner State?

The glass half-full version of this end result: At least Oklahoma talked about sports betting at all. Other holdout states continue to let entire legislative meetings pass without seriously considering the required constitutional amendments.

This is also probably the closest Oklahoma has come to actually legalizing sports betting. The overwhelming majority vote from the House of Representatives reflects evolving ideals. And even in the Senate, where HB 1027 eventually fizzled, there were plenty of incumbents who understand and support the potential economic impact of legal sports betting.

To that end, Oklahoma can revisit the matter in February 2024. That's when their legislature is scheduled to reconvene. This year's dialogue offers hope that the discussion will continue to transform, and that 2024 could feature a different conclusion. It says a lot that HB 1027 isn't dead where it stands, as well. It has merely been tabled and can be re-evaluated and drawn from next winter.

However, everything invariably comes down to the state's tribes. If Oklahoma cannot get sign off from them, all of their sports betting bills will continue to fail. These next nine months or so need to spent understanding what can be done to gain their support, so that the Senate doesn't find itself in a similar situation next year.

Can Oklahoma constituents trust Governor Stitt's office to run point on this part of the process? That technically remains to be seen. Then again, if his previous interactions with the tribes are any indication, he and his office may remain an obstacle the state has to overcome.

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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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