The surprise announcement of a new plan to legalize sports betting in Oklahoma has caused a stir among state lawmakers and tribal officials. Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt revealed the unexpected plan on November 2, catching tribal leaders, including the Choctaw Nation, off guard as they claim they were not consulted. Additionally, spokespeople for the House Speaker and Senate President stated that no one from the Governor’s office disclosed any plans with legislators before the announcement.
The plan put forth by Governor Stitt would permit Oklahomans to place in-person bets at gaming sites operated by federally recognized tribes, with revenue being taxed at 15%. However, the plan does not offer tribes the same exclusivity on mobile sports betting. Stitt defended the plan by stating, “I promised Oklahomans if we pursued sports betting, we would do it right – and this plan does just that. Thirty-five states have already legalized sports betting, and it’ll be a great revenue stream for the state.”
In response, Choctaw Nations Chief Gary Batton expressed his initial disapproval of the plan, believing it does not represent the best interests of the people of Oklahoma or the tribal nations. The tribal gaming compacts in Oklahoma currently reserve the sole right to offer gambling in the state to the tribes.
Furthermore, legislators who have co-sponsored attempts to pass sports betting expressed dismay as they were not consulted about the recent proposal. Sen. Bill Coleman criticized the lack of collaboration between the executive branch and tribal leadership as the main reason why sports betting bills have stalled.
Governor Stitt’s relationship with tribes has been strained, particularly after his unsuccessful attempt to renegotiate Oklahoma’s tribal gaming compact to increase revenue for the state. Last year alone, the tribes paid the state $191.5 million in gaming fees on over $3 billion in revenue. The governor’s surprise plan also includes mobile wagering, to be conducted by organizations licensed by the state and taxed at 20%, with an initial licensing fee of $500,000 and an additional $100,000 annual fee.
Ultimately, any proposal to legalize sports betting without tribal support is unlikely to pass the Oklahoma Legislature. As such, the future of Governor Stitt’s plan remains uncertain given the lack of consultation and collaboration with tribal leaders and state legislators.