Indian Gaming Association Chair: Oklahoma Sports Betting is Already Happening

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Sep 5, 2023 12:00 AM
The Indian Gaming Association isn’t happy with the state of Oklahoma sports betting discussions.

The Indian Gaming Association of Oklahoma sure sounds like they're ready to legalize Oklahoma sports betting

Chairman Matthew Morgan is making that much clear with his recent comments on the issue. First, he told assembled reporters that the state’s tribes are willing to talk sports gambling terms with Governor Kevin Stitt. Now, he’s taking aim at the unregulated sports betting market in Oklahoma.

“Let’s not kid ourselves,” he recently said. “[Oklahomans] are betting on sports. They’re not doing it legally, but they are sports betting, whether they do it on the internet, whether they’re doing it with a group of friends, whether they have a bookie that they call. It’s just not well-regulated, it’s not legal, nobody’s getting any benefit off it.

The timing of Morgan’s comments are no coincidence. Indeed, in each case, he has been asked about the topic. But this isn’t just a cut-and-dry response. This is a pointed campaign. He and the rest of the Indian Gaming Association clearly want to put pressure on Governor Stitt. Will it work? And what, exactly, are the issues still preventing sports betting in Oklahoma?  

The Timing of the Indian Gaming Association’s Comments Speak Volumes

It’s no surprise that the issue of Oklahoma sports betting is popping up front and center right now. Sure, the state’s next round of legislative meetings won’t convene until around January 18, 2024, but we’re approaching one of the most popular times in the United States’ sports calendar.

At this writing, betting on the NFL and betting on college football are flirting with their seasonal pinnacles. Week 1 of college football games are already in the books. Oklahoma is home to two premier NCAA football programs: Oklahoma State and the University of Oklahoma. Meanwhile, the first game of the 2023 NFL regular season will kick off on Thursday, September 7, 2023. While Oklahoma doesn’t have a pro franchise inside their market, their proximity to Texas and Missouri has culminated in a large swathe of in-state Dallas Cowboys and Kansas City Chiefs fans. They even have a fairly sizable base of Denver Broncos supporters, given that Colorado is yet another neighboring state.

This is all to say, Oklahoma could be generating tons of revenue off football betting lines. North American gamblers are seldom more active than they are now, with pro and college football seasons kicking off. That’s why you see so many of the best online sportsbooks in the United States offering aggressive sign-up and deposit bonuses. Now is among the most lucrative times for gambling operators, both in terms of revenue and building up their client base.

Oklahoma, of course, isn’t making a dime off this period in the sports calendar. And as Morgan alluded to with his recent comments, it’s a borderline fundamental failure on the state’s part. 

It would be one thing if Oklahoma’s gaming laws actually prevented sports betting. But they don’t. They make it harder, not impossible. If anything, the current gaming laws arguably make it more dangerous. Unlike other states without sports betting, Oklahoma isn’t surrounded by regions with legal gambling. Places like Texas and Missouri don’t yet have it. Residents can still partake in Kansas sports betting or New Mexico sports betting, but if they live in the southern or eastern most parts of the state, they don’t have easy access to legal alternatives. This means, as Morgan explained, they’re more likely to explore methods that aren’t as safe or regulated. 

So, Why Hasn’t Sports Gambling in Oklahoma Been Legalized Yet?

Despite being a regular topic among state officials, Oklahoma sports betting has made very little progress over the past few years. That lack of advancement is owed entirely to a deadlock between the state’s tribes and the governor’s office.

This impasse includes a vast many issues. For the most part, though, their difference of opinion boils down to commercial operations. Oklahoma tribes currently have exclusive rights to all gaming options, and they don’t want to relinquish it. Governor Stitt, however, has expressed a desire to let mobile online sportsbooks enter the market to optimize the state’s revenue.

While this is a pretty big issue, it’s far from unique. Many other states have dealt with similar deadlocks only to reach a compromise. But Oklahoma and their tribes have been unable to find a middle ground. Is that because the tribes are unwilling to concede any of their gaming exclusivity? Is it because the governor’s office insists on licensing a large number of commercial online sportsbooks to accept bets in The Sooner State? Is it because residents haven’t expressed enough interest in legal sports betting overall? 

Try none of the above. As it turns out, the current stalemate over Oklahoma sports betting is owed almost entirely to a lack of dialogue. And if public comments are any indication, this dearth of discussion falls on the governor’s office.

The Indian Gaming Association of Oklahoma has said on numerous occasions that they’re ready to talk shop with the state. And while the state has publicly echoed similar sentiments, the Indian Gaming Association has also said the state hasn’t yet expressed a willingness to sit down at the bargaining table. Maybe that changes during 2024 legislative meetings. If it doesn’t, well, the odds of getting Oklahoma sports betting legalized at any point over the next few years dramatically decrease.

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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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