Oklahoma Gambling Guide
Oklahoma has the United States second largest Native American population, behind California at almost 322,000.
Because of this, it understandable why they also have America's biggest tribal gaming market with 126 casinos.
These tribal gaming interests have driven Oklahoma's attempts at establishing a legal online gambling market, but so far, their attempts have been thwarted by the government.
Why is this the case? Will tribal casinos break through with Internet gambling any time soon?
Find out as we cover the Sooner State's online gaming market and laws.
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Online Gambling and Oklahoma Law
Aside from their large number of tribal casinos, Oklahoma isn't tolerant towards gambling.
They have harsh penalties in place for any form of unlicensed gaming. The Sooner State has even arrested somebody for gambling online.
This makes playing Internet poker and casino games a scary proposition. Do you really need to fear iGaming in Oklahoma though?
Let's take a closer look at their gambling laws to see the precedent for this activity.
Is Online Gambling Legal in Oklahoma?
Oklahoma doesn't contain specific language that covers online gaming, but the Oklahoma Constitution features a damning section against illegal gambling operators.
Code 21-941 states the following:
"Except as provided in the Oklahoma Charity Games Act, every person who opens, or causes to be opened, or who conducts, whether for hire or not, or carries on either poker, roulette, craps or any banking or percentage, or any gambling game played with dice, cards or any device, for money, checks, credits, or any representatives of value, or who either as owner or employee, whether for hire or not, deals for those engaged in any such game, shall be guilty of a felony, and upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by a fine of not less than Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00), nor more than Two Thousand Dollars ($2,000.00), and by imprisonment in the State Penitentiary for a term of not less than one (1) year nor more than ten (10) years."
Since offshore operators aren't licensed in Oklahoma, they're technically subject to these harsh penalties. If convinced, owners could spend up to 10 years in a state penitentiary.
This should be enough to scare off Internet gambling sites, but as we'll cover throughout, plenty of iGaming sites are still found in the Sonner State.
In summary, Oklahoma views any unlicensed form of gambling as illegal - including Internet gaming.
Will I be Arrested for Gambling Online in Oklahoma?
The Sooner State isn't much easier on players who participate in non-sanctioned gambling. Here's how code 21-942 describes illegal gambling and penalties:
"Any person who bets or plays at any of said prohibited games, or who shall bet or play at any games whatsoever, for money, property, checks, credits or other representatives of value with cards, dice or any other device which may be adapted to or used in playing any game of chance or in which chance is a material element, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction thereof shall be punished by a fine of not less than Twenty-five Dollars ($25.00), nor more than One Hundred Dollars ($100.00), or by imprisonment in the county jail for a term of not less than one (1) day, nor more than thirty (30) days, or by both such fine and imprisonment."
The fact that you can spend 30 days in jail for participating in illegal gambling seems harsh to us.
The good news is that it's highly unlikely anybody would ever face a penalty this stiff for iGaming. In fact, we've only found one Internet gambling arrest in the state.
Former Oklahoma City Police detective Roland Benavides was arrested in 2011, and charged with violating the state's anti-gambling laws and using a computer to gamble.
But there are important aspects worth noting about Benavides' case:
- He placed bets with a man who ran an online sports betting site on Oklahoma soil.
- Authorities decided to go after both the operator (David Tune) and the players.
- He's a police officer, which puts him under greater scrutiny for Internet gambling.
Assistant Attorney General Charles Rogers noted the last point when saying, "Obviously, we don't want police officers gambling because it can compromise their job."
Benavides' case is special, considering that he was both a police detective and somebody playing at an Oklahoma based online sportsbook.
This looks to be an isolated incident, and your odds of being arrested for online gambling in Oklahoma are very slim.
Can Tribes Offer Online Gambling?
No, but this isn't due to a lack of effort.
The Arapaho and Cheyenne Tribes launched PokerTribes.com without government approval in 2013. This online poker site offered real money play to Oklahomans.
Governor Mary Fallin explained that the state's tribal compact doesn't allow for online poker.
She did allow the Arapaho and Cheyenne to offer Internet gambling to international players in exchange for 20% of their revenue.
The Department of Indian Affairs blocked this though, explaining that the IGRA doesn't cover online gambling. Both tribes dropped the legal battle after spending almost $10 million on the site.
In 2016, the Iowa Tribe obtained PokerTribes.com, and launched it as a play money site. Following legal challenges, they won the right to run PokerTribes from their reservation.
Are Offshore Gaming Sites Safe?
Considering that the only legal iGaming in Oklahoma is a play money poker site, most residents head for offshore gaming sites. Is your money safe with these offshore companies though?
In most cases, yes, but this also depends upon the site you choose.
We recommend that you check out several reviews on any prospective gaming site. Some of the key points you want to look for include:
- Customer Service
- Bonus Wagering Requirements
- Variety of Games
- Banking Options
This is a key factor because the longer a site has been around, the more likely they are to have good service.
What are other players saying about a particular site? We recommend scouring online customer complaints to make sure that an offshore gaming site doesn't have any major problems.
Most reviews cover customer service, but it also helps to check out the support for yourself by contacting live chat with a simple question.
Always read the fine print under any welcome bonus before depositing to make sure that you have a realistic shot at earning it.
The more games/sportslines you have access to, the more long term entertainment you'll get out of a particular site.
Check out a casino or poker room's banking page to make sure they have a deposit option you can use.
Breaking down what exactly is or isn't legal in Oklahoma. Gambling Venues in Oklahoma
Where to gamble in the state of Oklahoma. The History of Gaming Laws in Oklahoma
A brief history of Oklahoma laws regarding gambling. Oklahoma Gambling FAQs
A list of questions asked about gambling in Oklahoma Additional Information
Still have questions? Check out these links. The Future of Gambling in Oklahoma
What does the future of gambling look like in Oklahoma?
More Gambling Laws in Oklahoma
Many states only allow tribal casinos to offer Class II gaming. This is limiting because it consists of bingo, pull tabs, punchboards and slot machines (bingo oriented results).
Oklahoma, however, lets their tribes negotiate for both Class II and Class III games. The latter includes baccarat, blackjack, craps, roulette, slot machines (random number generator) and video poker.
The State Tribal Gaming Act of 2004 gives tribes the right to offer Class II and III gaming, provided the government approves.
The result has been a success, with tribal casinos earning over $4 billion per year.
The tribes pay the state exclusivity fees based on Class III winnings. In exchange, Oklahoma agrees not to legalize commercial casinos as long as this money keeps pouring in.
The Sooner State collected over $130 million in annual exclusivity fees.
Charitable Gambling: Legal
The Oklahoma Charity Games Act allows approved charities to offer certain types of gambling.
Code 21-1051v2 (3)(a) considers eligible charities to include churches, parent teacher organizations, public schools, private schools and student groups. 100% of all proceeds must go to the designated charity.
As per Title 3A, licensed charities can only offer bingo, pull tabs and raffles.
Despite their nickname, the Sooner State waited until 2004 to pass their lottery. Games offered by the Oklahoma Lottery include Cash 5, Hot Lotto, Mega Millions, Pick 3, Poker Pick and Powerball.
Oklahoma features a large number of poker rooms in its tribal casinos.
Most of these live poker venues are small, ranging from 4 to 10 tables. WinStar World Casino & Resort offers a large poker room though, with 46 tables and many tournaments.
Passed in 1984, the Oklahoma Horse Racing Act allows pari-mutuel betting on horse races.
Live racing is permitted at Blue Ribbon Downs, Remington Park and Will Rogers Downs. The state criminal code bans making horseracing wagers by phone in the Sooner State.
In 2004, voters approved a measure to allow slot machines and video poker at racetracks.
The only catch is that no gaming machine can dispense cash or coins. Of course, this isn't much of a hang-up because most slot machines dispense tickets anyways.
Social Gambling: Illegal
Going back to code 21-942, this makes both hosting and playing in unlicensed gambling functions illegal. Given that social gambling doesn't receive an exemption, it's illegal.
This means that you're violating the law by playing in-home poker games and sports betting pools, but are you really going to be arrested for doing so?
The only arrest records we've found involve other circumstances beyond gambling.
The Cary Police Department, in conjunction with the National Guard, raided a warehouse based poker game and cited 41 players for illegal gambling. The reason why the National Guard was called is because police correctly assumed that guns and drugs were in the warehouse.
In 2013, an undercover sting netted two bar owners for running and profiting from an illegal poker game. The Newson6 report concludes that the 47 players "could also face arrest."
We're sure that Oklahoma features thousands of other social gambling functions on a monthly basis. The difference is that they stay out of the legal radar because the host isn't profiting, nor is anything illegal (guns/drugs) going on.
Gambling Venues in Oklahoma
With 126 casinos, Oklahoma features a huge gambling industry when compared to their population of 3.8 million.
They also have one of the world's largest casinos in Thackerville's WinStar. The WinStar World Casino features over 7,400 slot machines and nearly 100 table games.
The next biggest casino is Norman's Riverwind, which has 2,700 gaming machines and almost 100 table games.
Below, you can see these two casinos along with a few others in Oklahoma:
7 Clans First Council Casino Hotel
12875 U.S. 77, Newkirk, OK 47647
Apache Casino Hotel
2315 East Gore Boulevard, Lawton, OK 73501
The Black Hawk Casino
42008 Westech Rd, Shawnee, OK 74804
Buffalo Run Casino & Resort
1000 Buffalo Run Boulevard, Miami, OK 74354
220 East Cummins Street, Hinton, OK 73047
41207 Hardesty Rd, Shawnee, OK 74801
Hard Rock Casino & Hotel Tulsa
777 W Cherokee St, Catoosa, OK 74015
Remington Park Casino
Remington Pl, Oklahoma City, OK 73111
1544 OK-9, Norman, OK 73072
WinStar World Casino & Resort
777 Casino Ave, Thackerville, OK 73459
History of Gambling in Oklahoma
The Sooner State's first legal gaming move started in 1916, when they banned all gambling.
In 1983, the State Legislature passed the Oklahoma Horse Racing Act. This allowed state residents to participate in pari-mutuel betting at racetracks.
The most impactful event in Oklahoma's gambling history happened in 1988, when the federal government passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA).
The IGRA allows Native American tribes to negotiate casino compacts with states. This has led to Oklahoma having America's largest tribal gaming market.
The Sooner State has a weird history with Internet gambling. Two tribes tried opening a real money poker site in 2013 on the grounds that they're sovereign entities.
The state blocked them, citing that their casino compact doesn't include iGaming. The Iowa Tribe relaunched PokerTribes.com, but it's only for play money.
Below, you can see these legal events and others in Oklahoma's gaming history.
Oklahoma bans all forms of gambling.
Federal government passes Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
Arapaho and Cheyenne Tribes are blocked from offering PokerTribes.com.
Indian casinos collectively earn over $4 billion in gambling revenue.
State Legislature passes Oklahoma Horse Racing Act.
Voter referendum approves tribal casinos and racinos.
Oklahoma legalizes a state lottery.
Officer Roland Benavides is arrested for online horseracing betting.
The Iowa Tribe relaunches PokerTribes.com as a play money site.
Daily fantasy sports bill introduced.
The Sooner State doesn't take a light stance towards gambling or punishments. They also have lots of offshore gaming sites operating in their state.
What's the deal with this?
Let's find out by addressing several FAQs we've received on Oklahoma's Internet gambling market.
Oklahoma doesn't allow offshore gaming sites. Instead, they merely tolerate them because they have more important issues to worry about.
Earlier, we covered the case of David Tune, where he was arrested for running an online sportsbook. Tune was an easy target because he lived on Oklahoma soil.
It takes far more work to go after an offshore site when the owners live outside the U.S.
The best example of this can be seen with the United States v. Scheinberg case, where U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara went after the world's largest online poker sites.
Operating on behalf of the powerful U.S. District of Southern New York, and backed by the U.S. Department of Justice, Bharara brought these offshore operators down.
Oklahoma can't/won't expend the resources that the U.S. Department of Justice did just to bring down offshore gaming sites.
They're the nation's 28th largest state, and it's very unlikely that they will pursue legal action in countries like Antigua & Barbuda, Costa Rica and Panama.
According to ESPN, Oklahoma probed a "money hunt" contest, where dog owners compete to see whose dog tracks prey the best. These cash based sporting contests were deemed an illegal bet by the state.
Daily fantasy sports (DFS) obviously feature a different format from a money hunt, but all unlicensed betting is considered illegal in the Sooner State.
Nevertheless, the Oklahoma Attorney General has yet to make a definitive statement on DFS. Until then, DraftKings and FanDuel continue to serve Oklahomans.
At the time of this writing, the State Legislature is reviewing a DFS bill. It's questionable whether or not it'll pass since tribal gaming interests are against the activity.
Probably, but it will be in the distant future.
The only way that Oklahoma will legalize Internet gambling is if the tribes, government and Department of Indian Affairs are all onboard.
The fact that two tribes tried jumping into the real money iGaming arena and the Iowa Tribe currently offers a play money site makes it promising.
The state did make it clear that they don't approve of offering Internet gaming to Oklahomans though. The Department of Indian Affairs also blocked the Arapaho and Cheyenne Tribes attempts at serving international players after Gov. Fallin approved.
Chances are that Oklahoma won't seriously begin considering Internet gambling until neighboring states legalize the activity.
The Sooner State has multiple government and tribal agencies that oversee their gambling market. Here's a look at each of these governing bodies' details.
The state's Indian Gaming Association oversees the 100+ tribal gambling facilities throughout Oklahoma. They also work with the state to ensure that tribes are properly benefiting from casino gaming.
The Office for State Finance is tasked with working with the Indian Gaming Association to make sure the state is carrying out its end of the tribal gaming compact.
The Games Compliance unit is a division of the Office for State Finance. This agency helps carry out the OSF's duties in working with tribal gaming entities.
The Future & Your Views
Oklahoma has some of America's least friendly laws against gambling.
Online gaming should be considered illegal here, even in the absence of direct language.
You'll still find a wide range of online casinos, poker rooms and sportsbooks operating in the state anyway. Like many other states, Oklahoma isn't overly concerned with catching online gamblers and operators.
The only relevant case we saw involved an online sportsbook that was operating out of Oklahoma. The same case also featured a police officer who was busted for making online bets.
Aside from this unique incident, we don't expect any other players to be arrested. The Sooner State doesn't have enough manpower to concern themselves with Internet gambling.
Unfortunately, Oklahoma won't legalize iGaming any time soon. They already blocked two tribes from offering online poker, and weren't willing to renegotiate a new gaming compact.
Neighbors like Arkansas, Colorado, Missouri, Kansas, New Mexico and Texas will need to start considering the activity before Oklahoma gets serious. These are also states that aren't focused on Internet gambling.
In the meantime, Oklahomans can enjoy DFS and offshore gaming sites.