The legalization of sports betting in Oklahoma was viewed as a longshot when 2020 began, but that is no longer the case. The federal government gave the chances of sports betting a boost earlier this week, but don’t expect to place any bets in the state anytime soon.
Tribal nations have been in a legal dispute with Governor Kevin Stitt since Jan. 1, and things have gotten ugly in Oklahoma. The biggest tribes have filed a lawsuit against the governor, but some smaller tribes have started their own negotiations outside of court.
The battle stems from gaming compacts in the state that expired on Jan. 1, 2020. Tribes felt that the compacts should automatically carry over into the next year, but Governor Stitt wanted to renegotiate with the tribes.
Stitt was able to reach an agreement with the Otoe-Missouria Tribe and the Comanche Nation, and sports betting was included in this agreement. Governor Stitt promised the two tribes that they could offer sports betting at their casinos, which prompted some immediate arguments from lawmakers.
These compacts were forced to be approved by the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI), and they did approve the compacts. The compacts were announced on April 21, and the federal government did not have any problem with the governor including sports betting in the deal.
Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter still argues that these agreements violate current state law, but sports betting will now be a big discussion in the state. The DOI approved the compacts, but much of the argument was centered around horse race betting.
The state is expected to challenge the decision of the DOI, and another intense legal battle could ensue. The Comanche Nation and Otoe-Missouria Tribe were hoping to launch sportsbooks in the near future, but they will likely be forced to wait.
Hunter initially made a statement criticizing when the two gaming compacts were signed, and he also spoke out after the decision from the DOI. Hunter argues that Governor Stitt is not authorized to negotiate or legalize sports betting without approval from state lawmakers.
Leaders of both legislative chambers in Oklahoma also supported Hunter, and they intend to fight back against these agreements. They noted that the executive branch cannot create or amend laws without approval from the legislative body.
The Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association has also approved the signing of these compacts, and they have suspended the Comanche Nation and Otoe-Missouria Tribe for the remainder of the calendar year. Governor Stitt tried to offer sports betting to other tribes earlier this year, but they immediately rejected his offer.
Stitt’s promise to the two tribes would restrict sports betting to tribal land, and mobile sports betting was not included. Online operators will not be able to apply for a sports betting license in the state, and the tribes cannot partner with an outside company.
Even if these two gaming compacts are not upheld in the state, the topic of sports betting is now firmly on the table. Lawmakers will be discussing sports betting in the upcoming weeks, and there is a chance that the state could legalize the industry in 2020.