Oklahoma Casinos Look Into Possibility Of Adding Sports Betting

Thursday, August 22nd 2019, 11:26 pm
By: Jonathan Cooper

Whether it's football, or basketball, even tennis, every day across the country millions of dollars change hands, all dependent on what happens between the lines.

We're talking about the multi-billion dollar world of sports betting and in the casino industry right now, it's the talk of the trade.

"Every couple of years you see something kind of takes the attention of the country, and right now it's sports betting," said Matthew Morgan, chairman with the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association.

Morgan was one of thousands to attend at the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association Conference and Trade Show held in Tulsa, where sports betting was a big topic last month.

"We have literally five separate sessions here going on," said Sheila Morgan, the Executive Director for OIGA. "We have people from the U.K., people from Ireland just talking about that specific topic."

Prior to last year, sports betting was largely regulated by the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act or PASPA, which effectively made sports betting illegal across the country with a few exceptions, like in Nevada where it remained legal.

That all changed on May 14, 2018, when the United States Supreme Court ruled PASPA was unconstitutional. This gave individual states the right to regulate sports betting.

In the past 15 months, it's taken off.

So far, 11 different states have already legalized it and are taking bets, and six more plus D.C., have passed bills but are waiting to implement it.

With Oklahoma third in the country in the number of casinos, many people have wondered when it will come here.

"We're preparing as though it's coming sooner rather than later," said Mark Fulton, Chief Operating Officer of Cherokee Nation Entertainment.

Fulton oversees all of the tribes casinos, including the Hard Rock.

"There is a market here in Oklahoma," said Fulton. "We're still trying to estimate what that might be. There are models that show it could be up to six percent of the gross gaming revenue in those states."

Fulton says they've also been exploring various potential partners and ways to offer the services.

Ultimately, if sports betting is to come to Oklahoma it'll first have to go through the government at the state level.

"From the legislative standpoint, there has been an ongoing discussion about when that will eventually come to Oklahoma because Oklahomans are historically kind of sports crazy," said Terry O'Donnell, a Republican who represents District 23 in the Oklahoma House.

O'Donnell says they've talked about it, but no bills were introduced last session.

"I think the legislature is looking at it as a 'wait and see' game," said O'Donnell.

That "wait and see" game could be to see what happens in the coming months, because according to Governor Kevin Stitt, a big deadline is looming.

In January, the gaming compacts, tribes have with the state, which gives them exclusivity are set to expire after 15 years.

Stitt has said he would like to renegotiate those compacts to give the state a better deal, something the tribes feel they're not obligated to do, but have said they're willing to listen.

What that negotiation looks like, and whether sports betting will be on the table to increase revenue, is still undetermined.

His office tells News On 6, "the governor is open to expanding opportunities for the tribes, but what this looks like is something the governor and the tribes will need to discuss."

O'Donnell thinks sports betting will be discussed regardless.

"I think it's kind of universally accepted at the capital that it will be the sports book that reopens negotiations regardless of the legal issue," said O'Donnell. "I think sports book is the next big issue to be resolved."

Meaning answers and potentially bets could come soon.

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