Oklahoma Sports Betting Heads To State’s High Court Next Week

Posted on June 25, 2020

Oklahoma sports betting is a hotly-contested issue right now. Some clarification might be one step closer, though, through a state Supreme Court case starting next week.

Gov. Kevin Stitt initiated the controversy by approving a number of games not legal under Oklahoma law in two new tribal compacts. The most notable was sports betting, called event wagering in the compacts.

That’s led to many within the state coming down on Stitt and questioning his power to authorize illegal games in compacts.

Wednesday marks the beginning of the Supreme Court case brought by Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat and House Speaker Charles McCall to clarify Stitt’s powers.

Oklahoma sports betting timeline

No one expected sports betting in Oklahoma anytime soon. But Stitt surprised everyone and approved sports betting in two renegotiated compacts with the Comanche Nation and Otoe-Missouria Tribe in April.

The pushback from within the state came pretty quickly. Attorney General Mike Hunter released a statement shortly after Stitt announced the compacts, condemning his actions.

Hunter later made his office’s stance official through an opinion solicited by Treat and McCall. The governor does not have the ability to contradict state gaming law in tribal compacts, Hunter stated.

Compacts approved without action

Hunter also reached out to the Department of the Interior, which approves compacts between states and tribal nations, to reject the compacts.

He called for the compacts to be rejected “out of deference to determinations of state law made by the legal officials in the state.”

But the Department of the Interior didn’t squash the compacts. In fact, it took no action, which allowed the compacts to come into force 45 days after submission.

Stitt request for clarification of powers rejected

Compact negotiations have been somewhat of a headache for Stitt recently. Stitt started calling for compacts to be renegotiated last year, saying they were up on Jan. 1. Multiple tribes filed a federal lawsuit over the disagreement.

Stitt asked the federal court for clarification on whether he has the authority to bind the state to certain compact provisions. But earlier this month, the court decided it wouldn’t comment on the matter:

“Any question that has arisen regarding the extent of Governor Stitt’s authority with respect to tribal gaming or gaming compacts, the powers granted to him by state law, or the balance of powers within the State’s internal government structure is not a matter for decision in this case.

“Further, in the Court’s view, it would be inappropriate for a federal court to interfere with the resolution of such a sensitive state-law matter, which impacts important concerns of sovereignty and comity that underlie many federal abstention doctrines.”

OK sports betting needs one last step

Sports betting is technically still not legal in Oklahoma despite approval from Interior.

The compacts need to be published in the Federal Register first, Stitt noted in a press release applauding Interior’s approval.

Once that happens, the two tribes will be clear to offer sports betting at their casinos. But with the ongoing legal battle, it’s doesn’t seem likely either will take that step until there is more clarity.

Requests for comment concerning sports betting plans went unanswered from both the Otoe-Missouria Tribe and the Comanche Nation.

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Matthew Waters

Matthew Waters is a reporter covering legal sports betting and the gambling industry. Previous stops include Fantini Research and various freelance jobs covering professional and amateur sports in Delaware and the Philadelphia area.

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