Expert Says Potential Oklahoma Sports Betting Represents Best Option For Texans

Written By Hill Kerby on September 22, 2023
Car logo on OK map where sports betting could become legal in 2024.

They say if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. When it comes to Texas sports betting, that opportunity will not arise again until 2025 at the earliest.

Currently, Texans must travel to place legal sports bets in states like Louisiana and Arkansas. Oklahomans are in the same boat, although The Sooner State does have legal gaming via tribal casinos.

One gaming expert believes Oklahoma could be the next state to add sports betting, which would allow Texans to bet on sports … possibly years before they’re able to do so in their own state.

This year’s legislative shortcomings

Earlier this year, legislators introduced bills to legalize Texas sports betting and Texas casino gaming that passed House votes before dying in the Senate. It was gaming’s biggest steps toward legalization ever in The Lone Star State.

This past April, the Oklahoma Senate Finance Committee failed to advance a bill that would have legalized retail and online sports betting for tribes that had gaming compacts with the state. It passed through the House with flying colors, 66-26.

Previous discussions of gaming compacts between Gov. Kevin Stitt and tribes had fractured tribes’ trust in the state government. In that same vein, the bill’s author, Rep. Ken Luttrell, said a lack of communication was one of the main reasons for the bill’s failure to get through the Senate.

What changed since spring?

Casino gaming remains illegal in Texas, unlike Oklahoma, which boasts the most tribal casinos of any state in the US. With or without casinos, neither state has succeeded in legalizing sports betting.

Nor are they alone, as other promising markets like California and Florida also remain on the sports betting sidelines. California’s most recent attempts to legalize sports betting resulted in two of the most lopsided defeats in political history.

As for Florida, it had sports betting for about a month in 2021 through a gaming compact between the Seminole Tribe and Gov. Ron DeSantis, which allowed the tribe to launch its app, Hard Rock Bet. Another entity, West Flagler, sued the US Department of the Interior for violating federal standards, and the Seminoles halted future sports betting operations in the state.

Fast forward to June 2023, and the DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Florida’s gaming compact, effectively saying West Flagler’s claims were unsubstantiated. Last week, the Court of Appeals said it would not rehear the case, clearing the way for tribal sports betting to potentially relaunch in The Sunshine State after a two-year hiatus.

Florida’s domino falls

But Oklahoma’s situation might change soon, or so believes Jason Giles, attorney and executive director of the Indian Gaming Association. And if so, could it cause a ripple effect that spreads to Texas?

Given its tribal exclusivity factor, Florida’s soon-to-resume sports betting model represents the first domino to fall for other states like Oklahoma, California and Minnesota, where tribal casinos have a monopoly (or near-monopoly) on casino gambling, Giles said.

“This Seminole decision now gives the Oklahoma tribes and Oklahoma Legislature a model that I think works. Like many states such as California, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Washington state, they have been able to preserve tribal exclusivity to casino-style games.

“For those who have the tribal exclusivity, the Seminole model would work well in terms of establishing the legal framework to go forward.”

That said, not every state has the same views on its relationship between tribal casinos and sports betting. Places like Arizona have maintained less favorable conditions for tribes, with industry leaders like FanDuel and DraftKings dominating the landscape and tribes left to pick up the remaining scraps.

Despite its past failures, Oklahoma now has a sports betting blueprint to move forward with if it chooses. Now, it’s up to the state and its tribes to find common ground and make it happen. All eyes in Texas will be watching.

A race everybody can win

Pressure will continue to mount the longer Texas and Oklahoma remain without sports betting. North Carolina, Kentucky and Vermont passed legislation in 2023. Kentucky retail sportsbooks opened earlier this month. Its mobile apps will go live next week with an already-expanded betting catalog.

We have looked at the race to legalize sports betting between Texas and Oklahoma, where Oklahoma’s gambling environment and political climate give it a slight leg up over its southern neighbor.

But if one state wins the race, does the other necessarily become the loser? Not for the Texans who want to bet on sports.

Every state that has legalized sports betting has done so in the hopes of generating a new – and significant – revenue stream. Sure, some states like Indiana have seen declines in revenue totals as neighbors like Ohio have opened their doors. Still, every state with legal sports betting is succeeding in generating additional money to boost its economy.

It’s a fact that some of a states’ biggest incentives to legalizing sports betting is watching its neighbors’ successes. Especially when those states are benefitting from millions of dollars flowing across the border. It got North Carolina to act on allowing casinos after seeing its residents crossing the border into Virginia to gamble.

And it’s happening in Texas, as Texans drop millions of dollars every year in Oklahoma and Louisiana casinos. So far, though, that hasn’t swayed Texas lawmakers. That said, whether Oklahoma or Texas legalizes sports betting first, one will almost certainly help the other’s chances to follow.

Texas has gained momentum in recent years, creating hope for casinos and sportsbooks to make their way to The Lone Star State. If that momentum continues to grow, Texas will have its best shot at legalizing gambling in 2025. Oklahoma could have sportsbooks up and running by that time, and if so, it should only increase Texas’s chances of joining the party.

Photo by Shutterstock / Illustration by PlayTexas
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Hill Kerby

Hill Kerby is a proponent of safe, legal betting, and is grateful to be able to contribute to growing the industry. He has a background in poker, sports, and psychology, all of which he incorporates into his writing for PlayTexas.

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