As Texas continues to shoot down expanded gaming legislation, the other states around it are beginning to take steps toward adding sports wagering. One such state is Oklahoma.
On Friday, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt took to X, formerly known as Twitter, to announce he is putting forth a plan to add sports wagering to the Sooner State.
“Today I rolled out my plan to bring sports betting to Oklahoma. I promised if we pursued sports betting, we’d do it right – and this plan does just that.”
Arkansas and Louisiana already have retail and mobile sports wagering while New Mexico has only retail offerings. If sports betting is added in Oklahoma, it would become the fourth and final state bordering the Lone Star State to add some sort of legal sports wagering. Sports betting in Texas remains illegal.
Oklahoma governor is hatching plan to begin offering sports betting
Oklahoma already has a strong casino market that takes advantage of Texans with a gambling itch. Many of the casinos in the Sooner State sit on the border and are marketed toward not just Oklahomans, but Texans as well.
If Oklahoma also adds a sports betting industry, Texans could begin to flock to Oklahoma to place sports wagers. That would only increase how much potential tax revenue is being lost by Texas and going to Oklahoma instead.
Stitt realizes this and does not want to waste time getting sports wagering up and running in his state. That is why he is jumping headfirst into adding both retail and mobile sports wagering.
Stitt’s plan includes allowing Oklahomans to bet in person at sportsbooks that are operated by federally recognized tribes. Additionally, the state would award licenses to mobile sports wagering operators to host online sports betting. That would allow those in the Sooner State to place bets on their mobile devices.
How would OK benefit from sports betting, tax-wise?
Mobile sports wagering operators would pay a tax rate of 20% if Stitt’s plan is approved. The licensing fees for mobile operators will be $500,000 initially which does not include a $100,000 annual fee. Retail sports wagering will be subject to a 15% tax rate and will depend on an updated tribal gaming compact with federally recognized tribes in Oklahoma.
There will be prohibited wagers as a part of Stitt’s plan. Bettors would not be able to place bets on individual performances of student-athletes, coaches and referees. Wagering on player injuries is also not allowed as are prop bets on college sports.
“I promised Oklahomans if we pursued sports betting, we would do it right — and this plan does just that,” Governor Stitt said in a press release. “Thirty-five states have already legalized sports betting, and it’ll be a great revenue stream for the state. Tribes will be able to add it onto their existing infrastructure, and Oklahomans can access it right from their phone.”
Not all Oklahoma lawmakers agree on the plan
Stitt’s plan is without a doubt exciting to many, but some legislators wonder how much of it could become reality.
One common concern is if this sports betting proposal goes against the tribal gaming compact in place. Tribal nations currently pay millions in monthly fees to retain exclusive gaming rights in the Sooner State. Taking mobile sports betting and offering it to other operators as opposed to the tribes could be a violation of the gaming compact. Especially while asking them to foot the bill on retail sportsbooks.
Republican Rep. Ken Luttrell, who has pushed for legal sports betting in Oklahoma in years past, believes Stitt’s mobile sports betting proposal is an overstep.
“I think he’s a little out of his wheelhouse on what he thinks he can do, (with) granting the mobile portion to an outside vendor. It’s asking a lot, I think, to ask the tribes to be out money for brick and mortar and lose money on mobile sports betting.”
These obvious gaps in Stitt’s plan makes some believe this is a strategic move more so than a plan that could pass. Putting out this proposal might help push tribal nations to negotiate which could accelerate the process of adding sports betting. That is what Oklahoma City tribal lawyer William Norman told The Oklahoman.
“It’s an effort certainly to move forward his involvement and his engagement in this particular topic, and also a desire to maybe press the tribes to come forward with their views.”
Luttrell hopes that is the thought process behind Stitt’s proposal.
“Maybe it gives us a negotiating point to start from and do some negotiations.”
OK push comes after failed Texas sports betting attempts in 2023
Could movement toward sports wagering in Oklahoma push Texas to reconsider a sports betting bill? Many believe it will not because the Texas Senate seems to have no appetite to expand gaming despite the Texas House passing a gaming bill in 2023.
On May 13, after the House passed a gaming bill and sent it to the Senate, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick took to X to make it clear exactly how he feels about expanding gaming in Texas.
“I’ve said repeatedly there is little to no support for expanding gaming from Senate GOP. I polled members this week. Nothing changed. The [S]enate must focus on issues voters expect us to pass. We don’t waste time on bills without overwhelming GOP support. HB1942 won’t be referred. Texas is a red state. Yet the House vote on sports betting was carried by a [Democratic] majority. The Texas Senate doesn’t pass bills with GOP in the minority. The GOP majority guides our path. HJR102 also will not be referred. Can’t waste committee [and] floor time in the last days.”
Considering Patrick presides over the Texas Senate, that is not a good indicator for the future success of sports betting legislation in the Lone Star State.
Another issue is that the Texas Legislature only meets once every two years. That means sports betting will not be considered again until 2025. So even in a perfect scenario for sports wagering to pass in Texas, residents likely would not be able to place a bet until 2026.
The future for sports betting in Texas is not bright even as its neighbors pass it by.