Kevin Stitt still battling to allow sports betting in Oklahoma

Stitt hopes to turn around his past failures and finally allow sports betting in OK by the end of the current legislative session, reports sports writer Aurora Stewart

Governor Kevin Stitt has made sports betting legalization one of his main goals for the four-month legislative session that began Feb. 6.

Stitt says he is currently working to bring the interested parties together to discuss what sports betting in Oklahoma should look like.

“Right now, we’re just kind of studying it, bringing all the stakeholders together,” Stitt claimed, “We’ve got some casinos that want to be a part of that. We’ve got the [Oklahoma City] Thunder … and the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State athletic departments that want to weigh in.”

Stitt has been unsuccessful in bringing the native tribes of Oklahoma, who have exclusive rights over gambling in the state, to the negotiation table so far. But according to Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association Chairman Matthew Morgan, while some tribal leaders are apprehensive to work with the governor, they are not opposed to opening respectful dialogue about sports betting.

Stitt has previously faced legal trouble in his attempt to create gaming compacts negotiated with four smaller Oklahoma tribes in 2020 that included provisions for sports betting.

Those compacts were all approved by the office of the U.S. Secretary of the Interior by September 2020. However, some of the state’s largest tribal governments opposed the compacts. A state lawsuit resulted in an Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling that declared the compacts illegal under state law because of the provisions for possible future sports betting.

The Stitt administration filing argues the approval of these compacts is still valid under federal law, stating that “state-law disputes over the Governor’s authority to negotiate Tribal-State compacts cannot render invalid a compact that already has taken effect under federal law.”
Under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior has 45 days to approve or disapprove a state-tribal compact. If the secretary issues no recommendation, the compact is considered legally approved.

The Stitt administration noted all four state-tribal gaming compacts went through that process in the midst of the Cherokee Nation, and other entities, arguing that they were not legal, and were still approved.

The memorandum of law from the Stitt administration claimed that tribes “would hardly be willing to undertake the expense of building and operating class III gaming facilities if they knew that federal approval for gaming under IGRA could be pulled out from under them at any time. Yet Plaintiffs’ view would undermine Congress’s scheme by giving States the ability to disavow their side of the agreement at any time. Notably, this would apply equally to Tribes already involved in developing and running class III gaming, which may have been operating for years under federal approval.”

More recently, Stitt tweeted, “Let me be clear: I support sports betting in Oklahoma – provided that it’s fair, transparent, and the state can maximize revenue potential to invest in top priorities, like education. More to come.”

Oklahoma State Rep. Ken Luttrell (R-Ponca City) seems to have the same goal. His most recent attempt of many to create a bill on sports betting is HB 1027. This bill allows the tribes to amend their gaming compacts with the state, allowing them to offer both retail and online sports betting options. Tribes would also be required to pay a fee derived from sports pool revenue back to the state, based on a monthly sliding scale system outlined in the bill.

Stitt has spent much of his time as governor focused on this issue, and his administration remains committed to its continued push towards sports betting in Oklahoma. What will primarily decide whether he accomplishes this goal is his ability to work with the tribes.

Post Author: Aurora Stewart