The tumultuous journey for Oklahoma sports betting legislation started back up this week.
Sen. Casey Murdock introduced Senate Bill 1434, which would implement an Oklahoma sports betting proposal outlined by Gov. Kevin Stitt last fall. Stitt’s controversial plan, however, has a multitude of opponents in its way, including sponsors with active legislation.
Rep. Ken Luttrell and Sen. Bill Coleman have an active bill from last year, when it passed the House and sits in the Senate. They both have been vocal about their doubts surrounding Stitt’s plan, as tribal gaming exclusivity and legislative displeasure pose hurdles.
Oklahoma governor’s sports betting plan
Stitt unveiled his plan in November, taking multiple stakeholders by surprise. Both tribal entities in Oklahoma and legislators came out against his proposal, as he has consistently failed to rally interested stakeholders around the issue.
Stitt would allow tribes to offer in-person sports betting with a 15% tax rate. However, it would allow statewide online sports betting at a 20% tax rate through the Oklahoma Lottery.
“I’m most definitely not saying the tribes can’t do it. I’m just saying anybody can do it,” Murdock told Oklahoma Voice. “If Joe Blow wants to start a business and wants to start a sportsbook, I want him to be able to. I didn’t want to put any exclusiveness in this.”
Murdock’s bill is assigned to the rules and appropriations committees.
Tribal support key in Oklahoma
The state’s tribes control gaming through compacts and have protested Stitt’s hopes to include commercial entities. There are more than 100 tribal gaming facilities in the state.
Tribal leaders in the state have said Stitt has undone decades of work between the Oklahoma and tribes. Stitt has also run into opposition from his own Republican Party in the legislature. Leaders are displeased with how he works, particularly around sports betting issues.
While Murdock and Stitt say they are open to working with the tribes on the issue, little progress has been made since Stitt took office in 2019. He attempted to legalize sports betting through compact negotiations with two tribes in 2020, only for legislators to sue the governor and Oklahoma courts to deny the compacts.
Consensus needed in Oklahoma
While Stitt said he is open to negotiation, other stakeholders are doubtful. Stitt’s tribal issues have led Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat to threaten to have the legislature take over compact negotiations.
The sponsors from last year’s proposal also said sports betting legalization is more than just appeasing legislators.
“This legislation will take more than just passing a bill through the legislature,” Coleman told KFOR-TV last year. “When dealing with our tribal partners, compacting, and all the nuances that come with exclusivity and future gaming negotiations, we must get the governor in the same room with tribal leaders to build upon the conversation started this year by the legislature.”
Existing Oklahoma sports betting legislation
Coleman and Luttrell’s House Bill 1027 stalled in the Senate Finance Committee last year after handily clearing the House, 66-26.
The proposal requires at least four tribes to update their compacts with the state to include sports betting. If enacted, it would allow those tribes to open in-person sportsbooks and partner with online sports betting operators.
Sports betting has not been a Senate priority, as Treat wants to ensure the proper discussions are held and to “make sure everything we do is comprehensive.”