Governor Kevin Stitt Responds to Latest Oklahoma Sports Betting Legalization Failure

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: May 27, 2024 08:00 PM
Governor Kevin Stitt Responds to Latest Oklahoma Sports Betting Legalization Failure

 

The latest attempt to legalize Oklahoma sports betting recently failed. And though the end result is hardly unexpected, Governor Kevin Stitt has taken exception to the outcome.

“I’ve studied what other states have done, and there’s [38] other states that have a sports betting system, and so we can see exactly how that’s set up,” Stitt recently explained to News 9. “Let’s just get this across the finish line. Maybe we’ll come in and work on that next year, but I certainly want us to get something across the finish line that’s fair for Oklahomans.”

Governor Stitt has long been a proponent for sports betting in Oklahoma. And many throughout the state support his stance. But tribes in the Sooner State have exclusive gaming rights. Any bill to legalize Oklahoma sports betting must include collaboration with them. Stitt and his office have, frankly, failed on that front. That’s why this year’s failed initiative(s) do not come as a surprise. But it does raise a question we’ve asked before: Is there any reason to believe things will change next time around?

The Subject of Oklahoma Sports Betting Remains Teeming with Disconnection

In case you don’t know just how far apart key stakeholders remain when it comes to sports gambling in the Sooner State, Stitt shined a spotlight on the dividing chasm. Asked by News 9 whether he was disappointed, the governor claimed he’s not. But he’s definitely frustrated.

"I wouldn't say I'm disappointed,” Stitt said. “Because the bill that was proposed by one of the members wasn't exactly the one that was transparent and fair, not thought through enough, not clear enough."

It isn’t necessarily clear what, specifically, made the bill in question “not clear enough.” More than anything, Stitt probably didn’t appreciate how much it contrasted to his own proposal. Here’s SBC Americas Justin Byers with a full breakdown of Sitt’s Oklahoma sports betting plan:

Earlier this year, Stitt proposed a plan for retail sports betting in Oklahoma to be offered at tribal casinos and gaming establishments across the state with online wagering offered through the Oklahoma Lottery Commission (OLC). The plan called for retail betting to be taxed at a 15% rate for operators with online sportsbooks being hit with a 20% rate, along with a $100,000 annual licensing fee for market access. Stitt’s plan, first announced in 2023, failed to garner support from Oklahoma tribes. Another proposed measure, Senate Bill 1434, also dissolved after failing to pass ahead of the state’s third reading deadline.”

Again, this setup received a somewhat strong approval rating. Officials and even voters generally like to see online sportsbooks in the United States taxed a higher rate than retail operators. Still, Stitt’s plan didn't come close to resonating with Oklahoma tribes. And that ultimately killed 2024 sports betting efforts in the Sooner State before they could ever get off the ground.

Why Oklahoma Tribes Opposed Governor Stitt’s Sports Gambling Proposal

For their part, Oklahoma tribes have a sturdy leg to stand on. Generally speaking, they argue that online sports betting in Oklahoma would jeopardize their business model. 

Sportsbooks in casinos rely heavily upon foot traffic. Yes, online Oklahoma sports betting licenses would be available to state tribes. But they don’t have the reach or built-in client base of longer-standing operators. 

It’s hard to impugn this logic. Heck, smaller online sportsbooks with plenty of experience are currently struggling to survive in many markets. DraftKings and FanDuel currently make up the vast majority of online sports betting transactions in the entire United States. Their resources far outstrip those of most competitors. That has led to some sportsbook exits and outright closures. Most recently, an Indiana online sportsbooks just shut its doors for good after failing to keep pace with industry heavyweights.

If online sportsbooks with years’ worth of experience struggle to compete with bigger companies, should we really expect tribes to approve Oklahoma sports betting models that license those same bigger companies? 

Is There a Common Ground to be Found on Oklahoma Sports Betting?

We don’t mean to paint the Oklahoma sports betting discussion as hopeless. Thirty-eight states have already legalized some form of sports betting. More than half of those states, meanwhile, offer legal online sports betting. If tribes in other states are finding a middle ground with top online sports betting sites in the USA, Oklahoma’s own tribes should be able to do the same.

This is where shaky relations between tribes and Governor Stitt come into play. The genesis of their discord is complicated. In a nutshell, though, tribes take issue with Governor Stitt’s previous attempts to amend gaming compacts to include Oklahoma sports betting for select tribes rather than collaborating with the vast majority of them. Bake in the inherently divisive nature of Oklahoma online sports betting, and you have a recipe for the stalemate we’re witnessing now.

Immediately, it’s not entirely known what can be done to establish a happy medium between the two parties. Rest assured, however, it starts with a communal dialogue—an actual collaboration. 

Steps have yet to be taken to foment this synergy. Sure, reports have surfaced from either side that they’re willing to talk shop. But we’ve yet to see anything that suggests these conversations have ever taken place. And if they have, they definitely have not led to meaningful progress.

So if we’re being brutally honest, it’s difficult to see the status of Oklahoma sports betting changing until Stitt figures out how to repair his relationship—and collaborate—with the state’s tribes.

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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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