Governor Kevin Stitt Reportedly Didn't Consult Tribes on Latest Oklahoma Sports Betting Bill

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Apr 9, 2024 08:00 PM
Governor Kevin Stitt Reportedly Didn't Consult Tribes on Latest Oklahoma Sports Betting Bill

All along, the future of Oklahoma sports betting rested on the dynamic between the state’s tribes and Governor Kevin Stitt. As we approach the beginning of 2024, it has once again become pretty clear that this probably isn’t a good thing.

This won’t come as news to anyone who has paid attention over the years. The push for sports betting in Oklahoma has fallen apart on numerous occasions because of a shaky relationship between The Sooner State’s governor and federally recognized tribes.

But for a short time, it looked like tensions may have faded. At the very least, it seemed like there must have been some productive dialogue between the two sides. Mind you, this feeling wasn’t due to any public (or inside) information. It was more like an educated guess. 

After all, why would Governor Stitt announce plans for a 2024 Oklahoma sports betting bill without consulting the tribes, who have exclusive gaming rights inside the state. Surely he wouldn’t make such a declaration without conferring with them first…right? 

Er, wrong.

The Latest Oklahoma Sports Betting Initiative Caught Tribe by Surprise

Earlier this fall, Governor Stitt’s office outlined a plan to legalize sports betting throughout Oklahoma in 2024. The proposal was extensive. It contained a multitude of details that suggested intense amounts of deliberation. And part of that deliberation presumably included conversations with the state’s dozens of federally recognized tribes. 

However, after a short while, it became clear that this was not the case. Carmen Foreman wrote about it all for the Oklahoma Voice:

Tribal officials and state lawmakers say they weren’t consulted on Governor Kevin Stitt’s new plan to implement sports betting. While Stitt was in Israel, his office unveiled an unexpected plan to legalize sports betting. It included details on how mobile and in-person sports betting would be taxed and who could offer the new forms of gaming. Tribal responses to the proposal ranged from curious to outright dismissive, with all Indigenous officials agreeing that the best way to legalize sports betting in Oklahoma is through the state and tribes working together.”

This is a pretty shocking revelation. Not only does it seem as if Governor Stitt’s office pushed forward with tribal input, but the announcement catching state officials off guard as well feels pretty ominous. 

Even if the 2024 Oklahoma sports betting proposal is incredibly favorable to the tribes, introducing it without getting their thoughts and input doesn’t seem like the smartest way to go about the process. And as Foreman pointed out, this isn’t even the case. In addition to the slapdash way the bill was proposed, Oklahoma tribes clearly aren’t satisfied with the terms of Mr. Stitt’s sports gambling initiative.

Which Details from the Sports Gambling Initiative Did Oklahoma Tribes Bristle at the Most?

Plenty of details were released along with Governor Stitt’s 2024 Oklahoma sports betting measure. To the proposal’s credit, the retail sports betting elements seem fairly favorable. Under the terms of this initiative, Oklahoma casinos would have exclusive rights to offer in-person person betting. The tax rate for these transactions was set at 15 percent, which should be about average for the United States. It doesn’t appear that tribes took issue with that setup. 

The real issue? Governor Stitt’s approach to mobile wagering. His plan would allow online sportsbooks in the United States to operate inside Oklahoma. That is something to which the tribes have long taken exception. And for good reason.

Permitting corporate online sportsbooks to enter the market stands to detract from tribal casino business. Even if they can set up their own mobile applications, veterans of the industry such as DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, Caesars, etc. all have more experience and a larger reach within the industry. Putting them in direct competition with Oklahoma tribes threatens both the foot traffic in casinos and puts those same tribes at a disadvantage if they try to accumulate an online sports betting market share. 

What Does All of This Mean for the Immediate Future of Sports in Oklahoma?

To answer this question in two words: Nothing good.

Perhaps Oklahoma tribes would be more open to online sportsbooks entering the market if the standard for operations were more restrictive. The proposal also could have stipulated online sportsbooks in Oklahoma partner with at least one tribal-run casino. It didn’t do either of those things.

On the contrary, Governor Stitt’s initiative effectively creates an open-door policy for deep-pocketed sportsbooks. According to Foreman, “any vendor willing to pay $500,000 for a license and $100,000 in annual fees would be eligible to offer mobile gaming.” Those transactions would then be taxed at a 20 percent clip.

Sports betting proposals are always negotiable. This doesn’t have to be the end of the debate. Oklahoma’s legislature is scheduled to begin meeting on February 5, 2024. The conversation can continue there. Terms can change. 

Except, this all presumes there is an open dialogue between invested parties. That’s not the case with Oklahoma sports betting. Governor Stitt’s office still seems to be operating entirely independent of any tribal input. Given that Oklahoma tribes have gaming exclusivity, this is truly a bizarre way for Mr. Stitt and his office to go about their business. And at this rate, it likely means sports betting in Oklahoma will not be legalized in 2024.

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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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