At the onset of 2022, it looked like Oklahoma would legalize sports betting before the year was out. The House Appropriations and Budgetary Committee approved a bill that would give online gambling the stamp of approval—known as HB3008—and the House of Representatives seemed open to green lighting it as well. However, with a crucial May deadline looming for HB3008 to pass, the legislation has hit a snag that it's not expected to overcome.
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Advocates of legal sports betting in Oklahoma began 2022 on a relative high. With the proposal of HB3008, which is being sponsored by Representative Ken Luttrell, it looked like The Sooner State would join the vast majority of the U.S. in allowing sports wagering to take place.
Everything proceeded according to plan out of the gate. Not only did the Oklahoma House Appropriations and Budgetary Committee sign off on HB3008, but the dialogue throughout the House of Representatives was overwhelmingly positive. It seemed like only a matter of time before the legal sports betting bill moved to the next phase.
All of a sudden, though, the progress just stopped. Government officials haven't been as open to discussing it, tweaking it or having any dialogue on the matter whatsoever. With the May 27 deadline to pass the bill fast approaching, Luttrell seemingly confirmed the worst.
"HB3008 won't have a seat at the gaming table this season," he said, according to WSN.com.
What gives? Why is Oklahoma seemingly doing a 180 on HB3008? And what does this mean for the future of sports betting in the state? Let's break down what the latest news means.
Why Lawmakers Won't Legalize Sports Betting in Oklahoma
Theories abound as to why HB3008 has abruptly reached an impasse. After all, when previous sports betting bills have made it through the House of Representatives, they don't typically have any issue getting past the Senate.
In this case, though, the Senate appears to be the problem. The Oklahoma State Senate has been so unwilling to entertain HB3008 that the House of Representatives won't even send it to them out of fear they'll reject it and the issue won't be broached again for at least a couple of years.
This is all a slippery slope, as you can probably tell. And the Senate has yet to give a concrete reason why they're taking such a hardline stance against the legalization of sports betting in Oklahoma.
With that said, many in the House of Representatives believe the Senate is still annoyed by how the previous attempt to legalize sports betting went down. Talks turned contentious and combative, especially when so many lobbyists got involved.
What Happens if Oklahoma Doesn't Legalize Sports Betting?
The future of sports betting in Oklahoma may rest on how the next month-and-a-half plays out. If the House of Representatives sends HB3008 to the Senate and they vote it down, the legalization process will be set back years. If they simply hold onto it, they can at least revisit the matter on a much quicker timeline.
There is, of course, also the potential for the Senate to change its tune. If they show a willingness to discuss HB3008, it may open the door for semi-immediate approval.
But residents in Oklahoma shouldn't get their hopes up. These conversations normally take a while, and no progress has been made for months. It's much more likely than not that Oklahoma's collective stance against legal sports betting won't change before May 27.
Oklahoma is Missing Out on Hundreds of Millions in Revenue
Perhaps the most bizarre aspect of this news: The Oklahoma Senate is opposing a bill that stands to make the state tens of millions of dollars every year.
Most sports betting experts agree that the Oklahoma gambling market should be worth around $250 million annually, thanks in large part to their robust college football roots. In essence, then, the Senate is just leaving money on the table by refusing to look at or thoroughly entertain HB3008.
This would be a weird position to assume no matter what. But it's particularly vexing given the times. Oklahoma reportedly ranked among the state economies that were hit hardest during the peak(s) of the COVID-19 pandemic. The legalization of sports betting can help them regain much of their financial footing, if not actually take it to a new level.
It's also not like refusing to legalize sports betting will actually prevent it. Oklahoma residents are using illegal domestic bookies and placing bets overseas. Some even have access to those that make the cut in our reviews of the top online sportsbooks. And Oklahomans can obviously place bets in neighboring states.
What Does the Future of Sports Betting in Oklahoma Look Like?
Truthfully, the future of sports betting in Oklahoma may actually wind up playing out in California.
The legal sports betting vote in California is expected to impact other holdout states if and when it passes. The general consensus is that a successful measure in Cali will force just about every other state that hasn't yet embraced legal sports betting.
At this stage, it sure looks like that list of holdout states will include Oklahoma. Barring a dramatic change within the Senate over the next few weeks, Oklahomans should instead keep their eyes peeled on the November election in California.
And even if that bill passes, it will suddenly be the end of 2022. That won't give Oklahoma nearly enough time to implement sports betting throughout the state by the end of the year. From where we're standing, this feels like a situation that'll drag into 2023, if not beyond.
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