Here in Oklahoma, it's easy to gamble. Just walk inside one of the state's 70 plus casinos and take your pick, slots, blackjack, poker, and in some locations, you can even bet on horse racing. But, if you want to wager $20 on the Thunder, you're out of luck.
"We've had a federal ban on sports betting since 1992," said American Gaming Association CEO Geoff Freeman. "It's failed. Americans spend north of $150 billion a year on sports betting. Less than three percent of that happens legally in Nevada. The time has come for change, and we're quite optimistic that change is right around the corner."
Right now, the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing Christie v. NCAA, which contests the constitutionality of PASPA, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. If the Supreme Court ruling, expected next spring, finds in favor of Christie and the state of New Jersey, that could open the floodgates for sports gambling legalization across the country. Oklahoma is one of eight states who have already introduced sports betting legislation in 2017.
"Last year, we ran several bills that would have brought in additional revenue for our budget problems in the state," said Rep. Leslie Osborn (R-Oklahoma City.) "One was a tribal gaming bill that would have expanded to roulette, and also to sports gambling or betting."
Osborn co-authored the bill, which did not make it through the legislature back in May. But Osborn imagines a sports betting bill would be brought up again in Oklahoma because of what's going on at the U.S. Supreme Court, and Osborn is getting the sense that PASPA's days are numbered.
"My belief is, from what most people are saying, that will probably pass," said Osborn.
But still, it's not a lock the federal ban on sports betting will be lifted by the U.S. Supreme Court, which is good news for those who support PASPA.
Stop Predatory Gambling is an organization opposed to government-sanctioned gambling. Les Bernal, national director for the group, said, "What we want to see is the Supreme Court come in and say it's in the best interest of the American People. (PASPA) is a just and fair law that states like Oklahoma will not be able to offer sports gambling to its citizens."
"If sports gambling is legalized in Oklahoma," said Bernal, "it's inevitable that it will be a spectacular failure. The only people that win in the government-sanctioned gambling business – and that would include sports gambling – the only winners are the people that run the games. Everybody else in Oklahoma is going to be a loser."
The American Gaming Association says a legal, regulated sports betting market in Oklahoma could bring more than $600 million to the state's economy and generate up to $124 million in tax revenue annually.
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