Oklahoma Governor’s Sports Betting Proposal Sparks Tension and Discussion

Oklahoma Governor’s Sports Betting Proposal Sparks Tension and Discussion

Joe Casole

VP, Legal and Regulatory Affairs

Nov 6, 2023

The sudden introduction of the sports betting proposal adds a new layer of complexity to the already contentious landscape of state-tribal relations in Oklahoma.

Governor Stitt’s Bold Sports Betting Proposal in Oklahoma

In a surprising move, Governor Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma has unveiled a bold plan to legalize sports betting in the state. The proposal, announced while the governor was in Israel, has stirred confusion and discussions among lawmakers, tribal leaders, and industry stakeholders. It also signals the latest chapter in an ongoing debate over state-tribal compacts that has spanned several years.

Governor Stitt’s sports betting proposal, outlined in a one-page PDF, outlines a framework that could allow Oklahomans to place in-person bets at gaming sites operated by federally recognized tribal nations and place mobile bets through licensed sportsbooks. However, it has raised questions and concerns in several key areas.

Key points of the proposal include:

Licensing and Taxation: The plan introduces a $500,000 initial licensing fee for mobile betting operators, along with an annual $100,000 renewal fee. Mobile betting would be subject to a 20% tax rate, while in-person betting at tribal gaming sites would be taxed at a 15% rate. Notably, states lack jurisdiction to tax tribal casinos, and state-tribal gaming agreements typically involve “fees” paid by tribes to the state for gaming exclusivity.

Tribal Compacts: Governor Stitt’s proposal hinges on striking agreements with influential tribal nations, and it remains unclear how non-tribal sportsbooks might be authorized while ensuring exclusivity fees from tribal sports betting. The proposal does not specify the number of tribal nations the governor would support in compacts that include sports betting.

Collegiate Sports Betting Restrictions: The plan would prohibit prop betting on collegiate student-athlete performance and bets on athlete injuries, aiming to protect the integrity of college athletics.

Sports Betting Proposal Faces Numerous Challenges

Governor Stitt’s sports betting plan faces numerous challenges, including the need to gain approval from the Oklahoma Legislature, a body that has often sided with the state’s largest tribal nations during previous disputes. It is worth noting that Governor Stitt’s past disagreements with tribal nations extend beyond gaming compacts, encompassing hunting and fishing licenses and other agreements.

House Speaker Charles McCall has taken the initiative to address these complexities by hosting an interim study discussion on state-tribal compacts. Leaders from the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Cherokee, and Muscogee nations are scheduled to participate in these discussions, highlighting the intricate nature of tribal-state relations.

The tensions surrounding the proposal are further compounded by the lack of prior collaboration between Governor Stitt and tribal leaders. Tribal leaders have expressed concerns about the complexity of the issue, the protection of tribal sovereignty, and the impact on the state’s citizens. The plan’s request for tribes to surrender their online share of sports gaming revenue, which constitutes a significant portion of total revenues nationally, has also raised eyebrows.

While tribal and legislative leaders expressed surprise at the governor’s proposal, some lawmakers, like Sen. Bill Coleman, who co-authored a bill in the previous legislative session to allow tribes to provide in-person and mobile sports betting, expressed optimism about the potential for collaboration. However, the lack of coordination between the executive branch and tribal leadership remains a concern for many.

The sudden introduction of the sports betting proposal adds a new layer of complexity to the already contentious landscape of state-tribal relations in Oklahoma. As discussions unfold in the coming weeks and months, it will be crucial for all stakeholders to work together to find a path forward that serves the interests of both the state and tribal nations.

The House is open to considering the proposal, but Speaker McCall emphasizes the need for careful review and discussion with all interested parties. Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat maintains his stance against passing a sports-betting bill without a broader examination of state-tribal gaming compacts.

2024 Legislative Session: The Fate of Sports Betting in Oklahoma

As Oklahoma contemplates the potential legalization of sports betting, the state’s political landscape is poised for a complex legislative debate in the upcoming session, with multiple larger questions surrounding state-tribal relations in the background. The proposal is likely to be a topic of significant interest and debate as the legislative process unfolds in 2024.