Oklahoma is the United States’ leader in tribal casinos with a whopping 139 in place already. The next closest state is California with 76 in total.
The state also has two commercial casinos, known as racinos. The commercial casinos thoroughly benefited from a good portion of local economic growth and the first year of extended operating hours (24/7), approved in 2017 by state regulators.
But none of this has translated to much movement toward legal sports betting in the Sooner State.
The American Gaming Association reported that Oklahoma finished second in year-over-year increase in commercial gaming revenue (+11.8 percent) behind only Massachusetts.
All in all, the state's economy is mainly reliant on oil and agriculture. However, the number of tribal casinos and the gaming that is in place helps the economy’s outlook over the long haul.
The gross casino gaming revenue last year in Oklahoma came in at $139.6 million with a gaming tax revenue of $63.1 million.
The tribal casinos alone took in a reported $2.3 million in revenue from Class III electronic gaming devices and table games in 2017-18. In those tribal locations, there are 73,410 machines in the respective casinos, compared to 1,000 between the two racinos.
But with no sports betting, Oklahoma is still behind a handful of states (11 and counting) that are making a ton of money from legal sports betting, which is changing the American gaming landscape.
Late last week, Chief Operating Officer of Cherokee Nation Entertainment Mark Fulton told Oklahoma City TV station KWTV that “we’re preparing as though it’s coming sooner rather than later.”
"There is a market here in Oklahoma," Fulton said. "We're still trying to estimate what that might be. There are models that show it could be up to 6 percent of the gross gaming revenue in those states."
It is all talk as of now, but the state lawmakers will have to make the decision ultimately.
Governor Kevin Stitt laid out a deadline that is nearing in January where the gaming compacts that the tribes have with the state (which give the tribal casinos complete exclusivity) are set to expire for the first time in 15 years.
“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,” Stitt’s office told KWTV.
Republican Terry O’Donnell, who represents District 23 in the Oklahoma House, told KWTV in the same story that sports betting will be a topic of discussion from here on out regardless of these expiration deadlines.
"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," O'Donnell told KWTV. "I think sportsbook (legalization) is the next big issue to be resolved."
There is nothing even close to a bill on the table in Oklahoma, but the fact that it is being discussed is progress. Oklahoma has too many facilities and plenty of residents and visitors that love to follow sports and bet on them.
Things should get going in Oklahoma over the next 6-12 months because legal sports betting is becoming a real talking point for Oklahomans.