Oklahoma Sports Betting is Another Step Closer to Becoming Legal

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Feb 16, 2023 07:00 PM
Oklahoma Sports Betting is Another Step Closer to Becoming Legal

Despite previous skepticism, it's starting to seem like sports betting in Oklahoma is on the verge of legalization.

On February 13, a piece of legislation that would legalize mobile Oklahoma sports betting and in-person gaming advanced out of a subcommittee. The official name of the proposal is House Bill 1027, and while some lawmakers raised concerns about its structure, the measure unanimously passed out of an Appropriations and Budget subcommittee. This, in turn, suggests Oklahoma is more seriously weighing sports betting than ever before.

Residents of the Sooner State, of course, have heard all the optimistic slants before only to see things take a turn for the worst. Oklahoma sports betting has been on the state's agenda for years, and yet, each time, the measures on the table have fallen through after failing to gain enough support. The messaging on the subject also feels like it's constantly changing. Just a couple of months ago, the general consensus was Oklahoma wouldn't legalize sports betting anytime soon.

This begs a number of questions. First and foremost: What's different this time around? Why is Oklahoma sports betting gaining more traction in 2023 than previous years? Should we buy into the optimism? Or is this all just empty hype? And if a new sports betting bill is actually on the precipice of legalization, when can we expect the Sooner State to officially accept wagers? And what will legal sports betting in Oklahoma look like?

Potential Revenue is Driving the Push for Oklahoma Sports Betting

Let's start with the most fundamental question of all: Why should we believe Oklahoma sports betting has a shot at legalization this year when it's already failed in the past? And when the state's governor, Kevin Stitt, still isn't on the best of terms with the local tribes?

The short answer: money. As Representative Ken Luttrell, who authored HB 1027, told KOCO 5 in Oklahoma, the state is more aware of how much revenue they're currently missing out on.

"Half a billion dollars they bet in the state of Arkansas in three casinos," he explained while referencing the success Arkansas and its smaller state population had during their first three months of legal sports betting. "The state's share from that was $11 million. We're not really expanding gambling. We're just offering another option for those tribes that would like to provide this to their customers."

Other supporters of HB 1027 have also been quick to note that Oklahomans are already placing bets on sports. In addition to Arkansas, other geographical neighbors have already made the transition, including New Mexico, Colorado and Kansas. And Oklahomans cannot only travel to sportsbooks in those states, but there are also a number of highly reviewed online sportsbooks that will allow customers to set up and service accounts no matter where they live.

There's no telling, for sure, how much revenue Oklahoma is punting on without legal sports betting. But let's use the neighboring Arkansas as a baseline. Their population is roughly 1.33 times smaller than that of Oklahoma. Theoretically speaking, then, Oklahoma could earn close to $15 million per quarter off tax revenue from legal sports betting. That's not a number from which any local economy can walk away. And while it's just an estimation, the sheer number of states already having success with legal sports betting give such forecasts even more weight. This is no longer a start-up type venture. Legal sports betting in the USA is a moneymaker—so much so that even states without must still acknowledge how lucrative it has become.

Next Steps for Oklahoma Sports Betting

HB 1027 is currently waiting to be heard by the House's full Appropriations and Budget Committee. From there, it will be put to an official vote. And if that legislation makes it through both the House and Senate, it should be ready to appear on a 2024 ballot.

To this point, though, the success of HB 1027 is not a given. Some policymakers in Oklahoma continue to express concern. Many of the House Democrats want a clearer spending plan for revenue generated off sports betting, as well as programs in place that would help address any upticks in gambling addiction. Others, meanwhile, keep viewing legal sports betting as fundamentally immoral and continue to oppose it on less material grounds.

Still, with these roadblocks in mind, this time really does feel different. Reports from KOCO 5 in Oklahoma even suggest that HB 1027 has sufficiently accounted for the local tribes' role in the market, and that both they and Gov. Stitt are generally on board with the terms. This in itself is a fairly big deal. HB 1027 seeks to legalize online betting in Oklahoma, which was previously seen as a no-go for the state's tribes. They didn't want retail sportsbooks out-earning them in their own market.

More exact terms for HB 1027 have yet to trickle out. But they'll be worth checking out once they do. If most of Oklahoma's tribes have joined the pro-online-sports-betting camp, this proposal must include some pretty creative and effective terms. That's the only way it could seemingly appeal to every potential stakeholder. Without knowing them, we can't say for sure what makes them so well liked.

In the meantime, the tenor of the discussion is more important than the fine print. And at the moment, it sure feels like this is the year Oklahoma sports betting finally busts through legislative meetings and makes it on to an election ballot.

Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can decide which one works best for all of your sports betting needs: 

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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