Confusion continues to permeate the future of sports betting in Oklahoma. One minute, it seems like the state is making progress towards full-fledged legalization. The next minute, they're not even discussing the subject, and we're all questioning whether the key power players involved even want to entertain an expansion of gaming laws. Sometimes, it would just be nice if we had any clarity at all on the stance toward legal Oklahoma sports betting.
And as it turns out, we finally have some.
As Oklahoma prepares for another round of legislative debates in 2023, Governor Kevin Stint has officially clarified his feelings on legal sports betting. "Let me be clear," he said earlier this month on his Twitter account. "I support sports betting in Oklahoma—provided that it’s fair, transparent, and the state can maximize revenue potential to invest in top priorities, like education. More to come."
First of all, is there anything more 2023 than a governor offering a direct policy statement on Twitter? Probably not. More seriously, it isn't entirely clear what Mr. Stint means by "more to come." But his tweet does clear up some confusion. Many had begun to wonder where he stood on the matter. A bunch of people even began to believe he was outright against legal sports betting in Oklahoma. Around Thanksgiving, in fact, Oklahoma sports betting was deemed unlikely to get legalized anytime soon due in part to a lack of support from Mr. Stint.
Will the governor's latest sentiments do anything to shift the tone throughout the rest of the state? Could we actually see Oklahoma sports betting get legalized in 2023? Or are there still too many hurdles to clear? Let's parse the latest Oklahoma sports betting news for some much-needed answers to these pressing questions.
Governor Kevin Stitt May Support Legal Oklahoma Sports Betting, But He's Still Part of the Problem
Mr. Stitt's outright support for Oklahoma sports betting may come as relief on the surface. And in some ways, it absolutely is comforting. But there's no use pretending he isn't part of the reason why sports betting in Oklahoma remains illegal.
The state needs the cooperation of federally recognized tribes to actualize legal sports betting. They have not received it thus far, largely because of a disconnect between them and Mr. Stint himself. Writing for SportsHandle.com, Bennett Conlin recently broke down the feud between Oklahoma's governor and the state's tribes:
"Like other states, Oklahoma lawmakers have tried previously to pass sports betting legislation, only to fail. Gov. Kevin Stitt even tweeted his support of legalized sports betting last Tuesday, but there have often been disagreements between Oklahoma tribes and state legislators over the best way to set up legal sports wagering in the state. Stitt’s rocky relationship with the tribes has been well documented over the years, and issues between those two sides are among the reasons wagering hasn’t moved forward. Even with hurdles, lawmakers hope to make progress in 2023. Without that progress, it’s hard to believe in this year’s legalization efforts."
This feud in question reached a fever pitch back in 2020. That's when Mr. Stint negotiated gaming compacts with four separate tribes. It was a move that reversed decades of precedent. For so long, gaming laws were uniform for all Oklahoma tribes. These gaming compacts represented a stark departure from that model, and tribes that weren't part of them ended up suing the state on the grounds that Mr. Stint didn't have the power to broker the agreements.
Those lawsuits ultimately proved unsuccessful. The Department of the Interior had a month-and-a-half to review the initial gaming compacts and communicate any objections. They allowed them to pass through without a hitch, which gave Mr. Stitt cover in legal proceedings. However, the state of Oklahoma still needs to work with all tribes to incorporate legal sports betting—particularly if they want to open the doors to online sportsbooks. And ever since this gaming-compact kerfuffle, a majority of the state's tribes have been unwilling to relinquish or modify laws that grant them operational exclusivity.
What are the Odds Oklahoma Legalizes Sports Betting in 2023?
If a recent poll from PlayUSA is any indication, the odds that Oklahoma legalizes sports betting in 2023 aren't especially high.
The latest findings show that there has been an uptick in registration from Oklahomans at offshore bookmakers over the past year—reputable sites such as the ones that appear in our reviews of the top online sportsbooks. People in Oklahoma wouldn't be flocking toward alternative gambling options if they thought there was a realistic chance the state would green light sports betting over the next year or two.
This pessimism is likely rooted in more than issue. The tenuous relationship between Governor Stint and the state's tribes no doubt play a role, but it's not like Oklahoma was on the verge of legal sports betting beforehand. It's quite the opposite. Before Stint and the tribes were at serious odds, the state was unable to figure out whether their sports betting bills should include online sportsbooks or address on-site gambling only.
Previous problems like that won't just disappear if the Governor's office and his supporters are able to find common ground with the state's tribes. There will be other obstacles that need tackling. And so long as the state needs to focus on addressing the rift between Governor Stint and federally recognized tribes, they won't be able to iron out other details of legal sports betting, which ultimately suggests Oklahoma is years away from expanding their gaming laws.
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