Published: December 28, 2023

Oklahoma Sports betting bill facing pushback

Oklahoma Voice

OKLAHOMA CITY — A state senator has filed legislation to legalize sports betting in a way that closely aligns with the governor’s vision for expanding gaming across the state.

But the legislation already faces pushback from a lawmaker who previously championed efforts to legalize sports betting because it doesn’t grant Oklahoma’s tribes the exclusive right to offer the new form of gaming.

Sen. Casey Murdock, R-Felt, filed Senate Bill 1434 to legalize sports betting and allow anyone who can afford upfront and annual fees to launch an online sportsbook operation.

Murdock’s district covers much of Northwest Oklahoma, including Major, Woods and Woodward counties.

Under the proposal, the Oklahoma Lottery Commission would issue licenses to in-person and online sportsbook operations.

For in-person gaming operations, 15% of gross revenue would be remitted back to the state. For mobile sports betting operations, applicants would have to pay a $500,000 start-up fee and annual fees of $100,000 in addition to remitting 20% of gross revenue.

Tribes would have to negotiate sports betting compacts with the governor and get approval from the Oklahoma Legislature’s Joint Committee on State-Tribal Relations before they could get a license.

“I’m most definitely not saying the tribes can’t do it. I’m just saying anybody can do it,” Murdock said. “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.”

Noting the bill is a work in process, Murdock said he worked with the Governor’s Office on the measure.

Gov. Kevin Stitt caught lawmakers and tribal leaders off guard last month when he unveiled a proposal to legalize sports betting. Officials with the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association and some tribal officials criticized the governor’s proposal because it would not maintain the tribes’ exclusive right to offer gaming.

Murdock quickly came out in support of the governor’s proposal, saying embracing sports betting is an obvious move for the state.

Rep. Ken Luttrell, R-Ponca City, said Stitt’s proposal and Murdock’s bill would violate the state’s gaming compacts with the tribes.

“The compacts are simply written and very plain that he cannot do that,” Luttrell said. “We’ve granted exclusivity to the tribes to operate gaming, and sports betting, by definition, is gaming.”

Luttrell, who co-chairs the Legislature’s Native American caucus, and Sen. Bill Coleman, R-Ponca City, introduced legislation last year to add in-person and mobile sports betting as a supplement to the state’s model gaming compact with the tribes.

The bill cleared the House but stalled in the Senate. It can be taken up next year once a new legislative session begins Feb. 5.

Luttrell said he doesn’t expect Murdock’s bill to advance.

“I’ll be surprised if it even gets a committee hearing,” he said.

Ultimately, Murdock said he wants to work with Coleman to find a solution to legalize sports betting that everyone can get behind.

“I think we need to work together on this for the entire state of Oklahoma,” he said. “I’m happy to work with the tribes on this, but I just want opportunities for everyone in Oklahoma.”

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