Tribal Leader Comments on Lack of Oklahoma Sports Betting Talk in 2024

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Jul 5, 2024 12:00 AM
Indian gaming association chairman Matthew Morgan recently commented on the lack of movement on Oklahoma sports betting talks.

Amid expectations that there will be multiple Oklahoma sports betting bills on the table in 2025, the chairman of the Indian Gaming Association, Matthew Morgan, has commented on the issue’s overall lack of resolution. And his sentiments may shed further light on how the Sooner State ended up here, at a stalemate.

Getting Morgan’s input, of course, isn’t just about clarity. It is also instructive. 

It’s widely known that sports betting in Oklahoma isn’t happening without the support of the state’s tribes. They own exclusive gaming rights. Any expansion or amendment to the law needs their approval. 

To that end, the public thoughts they convey and comments they make absolutely matter—perhaps more than anything the ever-outspoken Governor Kevin Stitt could ever say. 

So, let’s go ahead and dive into Morgan’s comments.

It Doesn’t Sound Like Oklahoma Sports Betting Ever Got Close in 2024

Despite there being an Oklahoma sports betting bill on the table, it doesn’t seem like legalization ever came remotely close during 2024 legislative sessions. Here’s what Morgan told PlayUSA’s Matthew Kredell:

“Nothing really went on with sports betting this session. I think part of that was [that] other tribal-state relations issues took up a lot of oxygen in the room. Legislative leadership never showed any desire to take up sports betting, probably because they knew it would be a lot of work since we didn’t have an agreement in place.”

This explanation tracks with what we already know. Though a bill supported by Governor Stitt was in play, it lacked any sort of collaboration with the tribes. The relationship between the two sides remains shaky. And that may be putting it kindly. 

So long as they aren’t on the same page, there may not be much of a point in advancing any discussions. Stitt’s own initiative failed to gain major traction without accounting for enough tribal input. Any proposal introduced by the tribe may have run into similar issues via opposition from state legislators who support Stitt.

The Sooner State Faces Other Challenges Aside from Stitt’s Relationship with Tribes

Of course, the dynamic between Stitt and the Sooner State’s tribes isn’t the only issue facing sports betting discussions. Make no mistake, it’s the biggest. Dialogue and the compromise that comes with it can typically bridge the largest of gaps. But finding a middle ground is tough when tensions on both sides are high.

Still, even if Stitt and the tribes were on good terms, there is a fundamental difference in their approach. Governor Stitt and his supporters want online sportsbooks in the United States to enter the Oklahoma sports betting market. Tribes, on the other hand, prefer to launch brick-and-mortar sports betting only—at least to start.

Tribal opposition to mobile sports betting in Oklahoma is pretty straightforward. They don’t think they should have to go up against the additional competition when there are already so many tribal nations in the Sooner State. Morgan elaborated on this issue while speaking with Kredell:

“It gets more complicated when you talk about mobile instead of just on-premise. There’s 38 federally recognized tribes in Oklahoma, 35 with the ability to offer gaming and 33 currently in the gaming industry. So it does add a level of complexity. While no decisions have been made on how to address online gaming among the tribes, I think our members are more educated now and understand the potential for the market.”

This comes across as if Morgan might support the launch of Oklahoma online sports betting. Though, to be sure, that isn’t totally clear. 

More likely, he and many other tribal officials likely view Oklahoma sports betting apps as a reality of the industry. The vast majority of legal sports bets placed in the United States are processed via mobile operators.

Is the Outlook on Oklahoma Sports Betting Bleak, Rosy or Something in Between?

In many ways, Morgan’s comments are both informative and confusing. They clearly lay out the primary issues at hand. But they don’t shed light on what it’ll take to find common ground. 

All the while, many have speculated that the tension between the tribes and Governor Stitt may be so far gone that Oklahoma sports betting won’t be legalized anytime soon. While that’s certainly possible, Morgan seems to believe that overstates the gravity of their problems.

“While it will be difficult to find an agreement based on our previous interactions with the governor, we have been able to move some other topics forward,” he told Kredell. “We continue to work on other topics to improve tribal-state relations. They may need to get done before sports betting.”

The nature of these other issues isn’t quite clear. Nor is the timeline for dealing with them. And to use a word Morgan dropped a couple of times, this no doubt complicates the timeline for Oklahoma sports betting.

All of which makes it difficult to predict what happens next. Morgan did note that tribes in Oklahoma would be closely monitoring the United States Supreme Court’s ruling on Florida sports betting. And with the recent news that SCOTUS wouldn’t be taking the case, it suggests Oklahoma tribes will be further emboldened to hold their ground.

Whatever happens next, though, it’s obvious that sports betting in the Sooner State remains top-of-mind. For all the uncertainty surrounding this issue, the lack of progress clearly doesn’t equate to a lack of interest. And this, perhaps, is something to which anyone pushing for Oklahoma sports betting legalization can cling.

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Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan first began writing about sports back in 2011. At the time, his expertise lied in the NBA and NFL. More than one decade, that remains the case. But he's also expanded his catalog to include extensive knowledge and analysis on the NHL, MLB, tennis, NASCAR, college ba...

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