Opinion

Betting set for long haul in Oklahoma despite lack of tribal revenues

Oklahoma is currently tied in T18th on the Wedge Index ratings as efforts to legalize sports-betting have been hit by disagreements between the tribes and state authorities.

Inter-tribal tension also plays a part.

The state is host to some of the biggest tribal casinos in the country, but in common with other states where tribes hold sway, the process of legalizing sports-betting is long and arduous.

Tribal priorities center on their communities. Any change to their mode of operation is approached with extreme caution.

Different interests

For Oklahoma this was shown in June when the Otoe-Missouria Tribe and Comanche Nation signed a gaming compact with the governor that included sports-betting.

The compacts would have only allowed for on-premise betting. Still, it would have been a sign of progress and would nudge Oklahoma up to tied T13th position on the Wedge Index. 

The move was opposed by the other members of the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association and both tribes were thrown out of the trade body.

It resulted in a number of lawsuits that will now need to be resolved before any discussions on betting regulation can happen.

The pandemic and the loss of revenues caused to land-based casinos everywhere has not led to a rethink.

But any new online gaming regulation would also need the gaming compacts between the tribes and state authorities to be renegotiated. This is usually a lengthy process.

Revenue shortfalls

The situation is to an extent replicated in New Mexico, where the state’s tribal casinos have been hit hard by the pandemic.

The state’s racetracks, in an effort to make up some of the losses they have also suffered during lockdown, have put forward a bill to regulate online gaming and sports betting.

It is currently under review, but much will also depend on whether the compacts between the tribes and New Mexico can be successfully renegotiated as part of the new regulations.

To give an idea of the scale of revenues at stake, New Mexico’s 14 tribes operate 24 casinos and return $70m-$80m annually to state coffers.  

The tribes don’t want to rush regulations and that is understandable. But time and not being able to generate revenues continues to bring its own
pressures.

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Jake Pollard

Jake Pollard is an experienced journalist and editor who has covered the online gaming and betting industry for many years. He has written for the leading media outlets as well as operators and suppliers in the igaming space. His current areas of focus are wide-ranging and include regulatory developments in the US, emerging markets in South America and how European countries are adapting to a decade of igaming regulation.

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