The move to legalize sports betting in the state of Oklahoma took a big step forward as it prepares to go before the state’s highest court next week – the Oklahoma Supreme Court. This legal issue has become very heated among various lawmakers within the state.
The initiative set forth by Governor Kevin Stitt is to approve a variety of games that aren’t currently legal under Oklahoma law into two new tribal compacts. The Governor’s effort has drawn the ire of those opposed to sports betting, which is referred to as “event wagering” in these new compacts.
Questions Surround the Governor’s Power
Governor Stitt’s move has caused quite a stir and a fair amount of controversy as many question whether or not he even has the power to go ahead and authorize illegal games in compacts.
Senate President Pro Tempore Great Treat and House Speaker Charles McCall have publicly questioned whether or not the Governor actually has the authority to make a legal move like this. They led an effort to take this issue all the way to the state’s Supreme Court to try and stop the Governor.
The state’s top court will now have to determine what the Governor’s powers are and whether or not he can make this legal move.
Initially, there wasn’t a rush by lawmakers to address the legalization of sports betting. However, Governor Stitt shook things up by approving sports betting in the two new compacts in April. This came as a huge surprise to lawmakers who were completely caught off-guard.
Attorney General Not Happy About the Move
The Governor’s new compacts immediately sparked a backlash from Attorney General Mike Hunter who declared that the Governor doesn’t have the power or authority to go ahead and contradict the current state gaming law in the tribal compacts.
AG Hunter didn’t just end with a statement though, he also contacted the Department of the Interior in order to reject the compacts. This department is responsible for approving all compacts between tribal nations and states.
While AG Hunter was quite strong in his position, the Department of the Interior didn’t make a move at all as they chose to do nothing. Their refusal to take action allowed the compacts to go into effect 45 days later.
Stitt himself tried to squash the issue by asking a Federal court for clarity earlier in June, but no official position was given. The Federal court pretty much said it’s a state matter and that they felt it would be inappropriate to interfere in this case.
Optimism Grows for Legal Sports Betting
With the Department of the Interior choosing not to do anything, the compacts went into effect. Then a Federal court, in response to a lawsuit by other tribes in Oklahoma, stated that they wouldn’t interfere in the matter as it was a state issue.
Now that these two Federal hurdles have been cleared by the Governor and the two tribes (Comanche Nation, Otoe-Missouria Tribe), optimism grows as all interested parties await the ruling from the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Until then, sports betting isn’t legal as of yet, but it’s on the cusp of coming to fruition.
As a longtime freelance writer, avid sports fan, former athlete, and experienced sports bettor, Rick Rockwell has risen up the ranks at GamblingSites.org to become the self-professed "King of the Blog" in his first year with the site. ...
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