There has been no shortage of drama surrounding the legal sports betting industry in the state of Oklahoma. Just when things started to move forward toward legalization of the platform, the state has taken a major step back with a 7-1 Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling striking down the gaming compacts Gov. Kevin Stitt signed with two Native American tribes in April, which would have allowed for sports betting, house-banked card and table games and the building of new casinos off tribal lands. Essentially, the top court in the land ruled that the governor overstepped his authority in negotiating for tribal sports betting, which sends the idea of legal sports wagers in Oklahoma back to square one.
The lawsuit was originally brought by Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat and House Speaker Charles McCall who claimed that Gov. Stitt didn’t have the authority to change compacts and laws in the state of Oklahoma. The Court ruled that Stitt lacked the authority “to bind the State with respect to the new tribal gaming compacts with the Comanche Nation and Otoe-Missouria Tribes.”
“The tribal gaming compacts Governor Stitt entered into with the Comanche Nation and Otoe-Missouria tribes are invalid under Oklahoma law,” the opinion reads. “The State of Oklahoma is not and cannot be legally bound by those compacts until such time as the Legislature enacts laws to allow the specific Class III gaming at issue, and in turn, allowing the Governor to negotiate additional revenue.”
A Little Background on the Oklahoma Drama
The Oklahoma tribes have a ton of clout with regard to the legal gambling industry in the state. Compact in the state give the tribes the right to pursue legal gambling at tribal casinos – something that didn’t include sports betting until recently when the governor tried to include the subject in negotiations for new compacts with a couple of the tribes. Governor Stitt had a chance to extend compacts that had run out January 1 for another 15 years but instead opted to renegotiate to the surprise of lawmakers in Oklahoma.
His new negotiations included “event wagering” in compacts with the Otoe-Missouria Tribe and Comanche Nations. Sports betting, including esports, would fall under the “event wagering” umbrella if Stitt had his way and the new tribal compacts would allow the Nations in question to dramatically expand their betting platforms.
Lawsuits have been initiated by lawmakers hoping to check the governor’s power and by some of the tribes left out of the compact negotiations that Stitt entered into and ultimately completed without due process.
More Legal Issues With Compacts in the State
Governor Stitt is fighting multiple legal battles on the sports betting/tribal compact questions as we head deeper into summer. Not only has the legislative body sued over the compacts with the Otoe-Missouria Tribe and Comanche Nations, but the Cherokee, Chickasaw, and Chocktaw nations are in litigation presently, hoping their compacts will be extended, not renegotiated.
Gov. Stitt’s renegotiated compacts with the Kialegee Tribal Town and United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians are also being challenged in court and will have to be cleared up before any sort of legal sports betting will even be a consideration in Oklahoma.
Obviously, the tribes that had negotiated for “event wagering” with the governor aren’t happy with the court stepping in and ruling on a deal they thought they had with the state. Otoe-Missouria chairman John Shotton said the Court “doesn’t have jurisdiction to invalidate our compact when state and federal law dictates that our compact is legal.” That said, he did mention that his tribe had no plans to offer sports betting “until they are authorized by state law”.
Comanche Nation chair William Nelson Sr. said his tribe’s compact is “legal under federal law” and the tribe was “prepared to legally invoke the compact’s severability clause if necessary.”
Governor Stitt jumped the gun on legal sports betting in Oklahoma and exceeded his authority when it came to awarding two tribes a green light to go ahead with the platform. The bottom line is that legislators did not indeed sign off on any such plan and weren’t even consulted on the negotiations with the Otoe-Missouria Tribe and Comanche Nations.
Just when the idea of legal sports betting in Oklahoma seemed like an imminent reality, the legislature and the Courts have stepped in to pump the brakes on the idea. For now, wagering on your favorite team will have to take a back seat in Oklahoma, until lawsuits are settled and the legislature has their say.