OKLAHOMA CITY – A bill that would have allowed tribes to offer sports betting for the first time in casinos has failed. Revenue from the bill would have bolstered public school funding.
State Rep. Ken Luttrell, R-Ponca City, House author, said there “wasn’t any appetite for it” in the state Senate this year in part because of “moral issues.” He also said the failure to advance it had nothing to do with Gov. Kevin Stitt’s ongoing feud with tribal leaders, and said the governor had actually publicly voiced support for the idea.
“It’s truly an economic issue for the tribes and for the state,” Luttrell said. “We’re missing millions of dollars in revenue each week. Oklahoma are sports bettors whether they’re doing it online, under the table or journeying out of state placing their bets. We should be participating in that income and using that revenue for public education and for core services. ”
He has previously said the Oxford Economics Group estimated that legal sports betting would generate $ 240 million in new revenue for the state.
Luttrell’s bill also came nearly four years after a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling found the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was unconstitutional. In place since 1992, it barred most states from allowing sports wagering. The ruling opened the door for state legislatures to decide whether they want to end existing bans and try to capitalize on the billions illegally wagered each year.
Thirty states now offer some form of legal sports betting. Another five recently have legalized it, but it’s not yet operational, according to the American Gaming Association.
Luttrell said he’ll run a similar measure again next year, and said Oklahoma will “be behind as usual” if it continues to delay offering the option.
“It makes good economic sense, and I think maybe in an off-election year, we’ll have a better chance of getting it moved through both sides of the Capitol,” he said.
Luttrell said some Oklahoma tribes want to operate their own online betting operations because there’s higher profits in it, but added, “my intention here is to put people into the casinos, people in the seats, enjoying the amenities, dining, drinking, gaming if they want to. ”
He believes adding sports betting is not expanding gaming, but rather adding just one more approved form to what’s already in state statutes.
State Sen. Bill Coleman, R-Ponca City, Senate author, said when he first pitched the idea to fellow Senate Republicans, it wasn’t met with “much excitement.” He said there was no interest in adding additional games and gambling right now.
Matthew Morgan, chairman of the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association, said historically for any type of gaming expansion to work in Oklahoma, it tends to occur in non-election years, and when there are revenue issues, and lawmakers are looking for new money. When lawmakers expanded gaming to allow ball and dice games in casinos, teachers were walking out and demanding higher pay.
“I don’t think anybody had the expectation that something was going to zoom through the Legislature and get finished, but it was a good starting point to bring people to the table and start talking about what may look like and see where people stood, ”Morgan said.
He said generally speaking tribes are always looking for ways to enhance their entertainment options, and a lot of states are legalizing both in-person and mobile sports betting options. Some Oklahoma tribes have been interested in possibly also having mobile betting options.
“I think there’s a lot of interest in talking about sports betting and seeing if there’s a way forward there,” Morgan said.
But ultimately it’s going to depend on what the final bill says, whether it makes economic sense, and whether Oklahoma is going to again be one of the last states to legalize sports wagering, he said.
“We are in the entertainment space, and you look around the country at what offerings people can have, especially regionally, and you see more and more of those opportunities pop up,” Morgan said. “I think our operators, our members would love to have that opportunity to participate if it makes sense. If it does, I think they’d be willing and able to sit across the table from the state Legislature and have a conversation on what it looks like. “