A House committee in Oklahoma has passed a bill seeking to legalize sports betting at casinos in the state. The bill was advanced six to four late Monday afternoon and is now set to move to a full house, leading to what could be a heated debate.
The legislation passed by lawmakers legalizes sports betting at tribal casinos in the Sooner State. However, House Bill 3008 does not permit nor regulate mobile sports wagering, leaving the profitable vertical out of the equation: all betting must be in-person.
But while the bill saw a big step forward on Monday, it is set to face a series of hurdles in its road to becoming law. Before signing it into law, it is expected Gov. Kevin Stitt might sit down with the tribes and discuss the gaming compact. However, the working relationship between both parties is not at its best at the moment, reports KOCO News.
It is not yet clear whether the bill would have a chance of being signed by Stitt, who had previously shown little interest in negotiating with the state’s tribes on gaming. Since his election, the administration brought discussions to add sports betting to compacts to a halt, and the Gov. unsuccessfully attempted to have the compacts with the tribes declared no longer valid.
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt
The legislation is being sponsored by Republican Rep. Ken Luttrell, who argues its passage would work as an economic boost for both the tribes and the state. Additionally, he believes that, at a later stage, online betting could be introduced for further economic gains.
House Bill 3008 calls for the state to receive a 10% cut of net winnings, which is the total in bets received minus prizes paid out and federal taxes. Luttrell claims he had conversations with tribes to gauge their interest on the topic and that he feels "the time is right" for the state to partner with them on launching the market.
Moreover, backers of the bill allege that Oklahomans are already betting in sports and that they will continue to do so, whether legal or not: regulating the market would prevent revenue from going to other states or the black market.
"Oklahomans are sending millions of their dollars down to the Caribbean in online sports betting,” Luttrell said. “The state is making no income from that. No share from that. The tribes are not getting any share of that income.”
According to the lawmaker, the legalization of sports gaming would create thousands of jobs, and even if a passage were to ultimately fail, he has shown optimism about the legislation having already sparked conversation on the issue.
"I would be happy to facilitate that, get everybody to the table and have some good open dialogue and discussion about this, it's not a make or break for the tribal entities," Luttrell said about the bill.
Still, not all tribes seem to be on board with the project, at least yet. Opposing legislators are asking for negotiations between state and tribes to start taking place before going forward and expanding gambling, while tribal nations seem to be divided on the issue.
“Our members are very interested in the subject, they engage quite regularly within their own communities and their local representatives and state senators,” said Matthew Morgan from the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association, according to the cited source. “Everybody is unique when it comes to their markets and what they would like to see."