Changing the gambling rules in Oklahoma

Tuesday, May 20th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

An emerging controversy over new gambling rules for Oklahoma. A new bill would raise the stakes and allow some, limited Class 3 gambling.

Class 3 is basically where players bet against the house, instead of each other, and it's a hot-button issue for many, especially Oklahoma's churches. News on 6 reporter Steve Berg says the idea started with the Horse Racing industry.

They say they've lost so much of their clientele to Indian casinos that they asked the state to let them have the same Class 2 video machines the tribes have. But then things changed. "The bill has grown now into basically a Class 3 gaming bill, and that's not what the tracks asked for." Ron Shotts with Tulsa's Fair Meadows Race Track says the Indian tribes have expanded the bill to include Class 3 gaming but have gotten the legislature to place restrictions on the racetracks on how many machines they can have and how often they can operate. "I'm not sure with the restrictions that have been talked about on the racetracks that we would be much better off with the bill as it is now."

If the racing industry is now indifferent, religious groups are still vehemently opposed to what they say is a clear expansion of gambling in Oklahoma. Besides the moral objections, they think the state should be concentrating more on bringing in manufacturing and other industry. Rev Kent House with the Skelly Drive Baptist Church, "That's how an economy is grown. Y'know we don't grow an economy by setting up shop with people losing their money. That's not how an economy is grown."

State officials say the Class 3 gambling would be very limited, to the video machines and blackjack games that have already taken place in many Indian casinos. In other words, they say, don't expect craps tables and roulette wheels.

But you can expect the intense controversy over the issue will continue. The legislature is expected to vote on the issue by the end of the month.