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Oklahoma gamblers want sports betting; could be an uphill battle

Oklahoma gamblers want sports betting; could be an uphill battle (KTUL)

TULSA, Okla. (KTUL) - Several Oklahoma Indian tribes would like to offer sports betting, but it will be a long and difficult process to make that change.

There's no question that sports betting would provide growth for a business that is anxious to continue a steady growth pattern. Right now, almost half the money that is wagered in Las Vegas is bet on football games.

Tulsa's Channel 8 visited Lefties On Greenwood across the street from Oneok Field and conducted an informal poll with the Wednesday lunch crowd. While some people just didn't care about the issue, most were in favor of legalizing sports betting. We didn't find a single person who was opposed.

On the west side of downtown at the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association Convention, members of several tribes told us they'd like to pursue the issue in the next few years.

While some of the tribes would like to give participants the option to bet on pro and college sports, making that change requires a lot of complex political work on the state and federal levels. In Oklahoma, it would require working with the legislature and the governor. It might also require a public vote.

On the federal level, Congress would have to end Nevada's current sports betting monopoly. The states of New Jersey and Pennsylvania are already fighting that battle.

The executive director of the OIGA said the organization will follow the wishes of its members and the public, but it recognizes an opportunity to expand its customer base.

"Those are different kinds of players; the demographics for them are different," Sheila Morago said. "If that's something the citizens of Oklahoma want, we need to hear about it."

While sports betting has created some problems in other states,the attorney for the gaming association said Oklahoma gambling is clean because of tight tribal regulation.

"Gaming only works for the player and for the tribe and, ultimately, for the state if there is a high degree of confidence in the integrity of the game," Dean Luthey said.

Luthey said Oklahoma is fortunate to have gaming that's been scandal free. While he doesn't feel sports gambling is part of the immediate future, it's clear that he believes it could be done properly in Oklahoma.

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