Oklahoma’s reputation for being one of the Union’s least gambling-friendly states is well-earned.
As early as 1890, the Sooner State banned gambling on moral grounds. This stance, enshrined into state law, lasted for the best part of a hundred years, right up until the 1980s when some significant legislative changes rearranged the gambling landscape considerably.
Nowadays, thanks largely to tribal casinos, there are plenty of gambling opportunities around for Oklahomans. With more than 100 casinos now available on tribal lands, casino gambling abounds. This also includes poker, with big tournament series and events now commonplace. Sports betting in the form of horse race wagering is legit too, and most of the state’s race tracks now feature slots as well. Bingo and lottery are also legal, with the inter-state games just as popular here as almost everywhere else.
However, online gambling in Oklahoma is not only illegal, it is very much frowned upon by lawmakers. Indeed, this is one state that clamps down on players almost as zealously as it does on the sites providing the services.
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The Sooner State has specific statutes criminalizing people who partake in unexempted gambling:
“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…” from Code 21- 941.
Moreover, Oklahoma makes the actual bet the subject of criminal proceedings: “A ‘bet’ is a bargain in which the parties agree that, dependent upon chance, or in which one of the parties to the transaction has valid reason to believe that it is dependent upon chance, one stands to win or lose something of value specified in the agreement.”
While social and private gambling games aren’t exempt, they don’t get anywhere near as much attention from law enforcement as sports betting or, to a lesser degree, real money online casino gambling, which is also illegal.
Social casinos are completely legal, though, and available on the internet or as an app and feature all the popular casino games, including slots, blackjack, video poker and roulette. It is free to play. While you cannot win money playing games at social casinos, the sites like Chumba casino typically offer sweepstakes (games of chance) with prizes that can include real money jackpots.
Though all unlicensed betting is considered illegal in the Sooner State, the Oklahoma Attorney General has yet to make a definitive statement on daily fantasy sports (DFS). Until that happens DraftKings, FanDuel and the rest can continue to serve Okies without any real hindrance.
While there are hundreds of places to play poker in Oklahoma’s land-based tribal casinos, things get trickier for online poker. Online poker in Oklahoma is illegal and it looks like it’ll stay that way for a while (or until neighboring states change their tune, at least).
It’s a fair bet that Oklahoma, with its harsh punishments that can involve significant jail time, would shut down every offshore poker website in its territory if it could.
Sports betting in Oklahoma is pretty much confined to pari-mutuel betting on horse racing, either remotely or in person at the state’s three racetracks.
Online sports betting runs parallel with what was has been said about online poker above. Remember, this is the state that arrested and charged former Oklahoma City Police detective Roland Benavides in 2011 for using a computer to gamble on sports.
Even in the Sooner State, this may change. The state's tribes have expressed their interest in taking bets and lawmakers may warm up to the prospect - "sooner" than later.
After expanding its casino gaming options, Oklahoma is not as open to sports betting. Lawmakers make no serious effort to approve legalization in the following months.
A daily fantasy sports bill is introduced.
Iowa tribe relaunches PokerTribes.com as a play money site.
Arapaho and Cheyenne tribes are denied permission to offer PokerTribes.com online gambling.
Roland Benavides, a police officer, is arrested for betting on horse racing online.
After the introduction of legislation in 2003, and a referendum in 2004; the Oklahoma lottery begins. The Oklahoma lottery quickly grew to include inter-state games such as Powerball.
After many years, state officials finally begin negotiations for a compact to upgrade class 2 gaming to class 3. This gets approved, directly leading to a boom in tribal casinos.
The Charitable Games Act is passed into law. This allows bingo, pull-tab games and other raffles to be hosted under license of the Alcoholic Beverage Law Enforcement Commission (ABLE).
First compact signed with the Oklahoma tribes, enabling class 2 games* (bingo or lottery-type games including electronic machines), as well as pari-mutuel horse racing on tribal lands. *Games operated by computers yet assisted by live dealers are often included in this definition.
The Choctaw tribe hosts the first high-stakes bingo games on their lands.
Horse race gambling in the form of pari-mutuel betting is first legislated. This eventually comes into law in 1983, with 12 of Oklahoma’s 15 counties approving the vote. In time, off-site betting and gaming machines for the three major race tracks would also be approved.
Oklahoma bans all forms of gambling.
Native tribes from the east are forcibly relocated to Oklahoma lands. This action would have many consequences, one of which would be to help shape the state’s gambling landscape in years to come.
Settlers to the territory bring gambling with them. Classic western vignettes of poker games in saloons, barely regulated casinos, and gunfights were the norm during this period.
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