Oklahoma Casinos, Gambling, and Law Regulations: An Overview

Oklahoma, like many other Midwest states, does not have a massive population. Its population of 3.94 million residents has made the state the center of tribal gaming. Oklahoma has the second-highest population of Native Americans in the United States, just behind California. Because of that, the Sooner state has become an epicenter of tribal casinos.

This article will acquaint you with Oklahoma’s history of gambling, its gambling laws, and regulations and further give you an overview of the rules. Additionally, you will find out which casinos are worth visiting the next time you find yourself in the Midwest.

A Brief History of Oklahoma Gambling Laws

During the early 1800s, the first settlers brought gambling to Oklahoma. In those times, gambling can be found in saloons during regular poker games. Today’s Native American population in Oklahoma is 321,687 — a result of constant migration in the 19th and 20th century. Since becoming a state in 1890, Oklahoma has banned all forms of gambling.

The first legalized form of gambling was horse racing in 1982. There were three horse racing tracks in the whole state, with two later becoming racinos. Nowadays, there is only one horse racing track, Fair Meadows, established in 1989.

In 1992, Oklahoma also legalized forms of charity gambling. Licensed charities offer raffle tickets, pull tabs, and bingo per Title 3A. Of course, 100% of the proceeds must go to the chosen charity. Places like churches, student groups, and others have permission to carry out any charitable gambling.

After a couple of years in court, in the early 2000s, the tribes won against the State. As a result, they could operate class III games legally on native lands in Oklahoma. It was a complicated legal battle since the Government refused to take part in any negotiations, but the tribes came out as winners.

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Gambling Laws in Oklahoma — The Law Overview

Gambling in Oklahoma has been defined as “betting or bargaining that, dependent upon chance, one stands to lose or win something of value specified in an agreement between parties.” This definition leaves some room for interpretation, especially for skill-based games. However, it is clear enough for land-based and online games of chance. Any person older than 18 is free to gamble, while for gambling in casinos that serve alcohol, you need to be older than 21.

As we have already mentioned, horse racing and charity gambling have been legal in the Sooner state for some time now. Since 2004, it became legal for horse racing tracks to add casinos and thus form racinos on their grounds. Sallisaw’s Blue Ribbon Downs was opened in 2005, while Claremore’s Will Rogers Downs was opened a year later.

Charitable gaming needs to be approved by the state. Additionally, Statute 21-1051v2 (3)(a) allows police stations, fire departments, public and private schools, and more to raise money with charitable gaming. The Statue also emphasizes that nobody can profit from any charitable gaming acts.

Even though there are precisely defined laws against some types of betting, there are still some loopholes that could mislead players. We will discuss these types of gambling further in the article.

Online Gambling

There are no implicit laws that forbid online gambling. However, online gambling is considered illegal in the state of Oklahoma. The following section, 21-964 (A)(2) from the criminal code, has some dubious language that can be taken into consideration in a case against online gambling.

“Any machine, instrument, mechanism, or device that operates or may be played or operated mechanically, electrically, automatically, or manually, and which can be played or operated by any person by paying to or depositing with any person, or by depositing with or into any cache, slot, or place a coin, chip, token, check, credit, money, representative of value, or a thing of value, and by which play or operation such person will stand to win or lose, whether by skill or chance or by both, a thing of value.”

This description addresses slot machines but could refer to a computer, smartphone, or tablet. There was one case in Oklahoma in 2011 when a police officer was arrested for online betting at sportsbooks on horse races. That one case alone is enough to further question the law about online gambling.

Social Gambling

Another Statue, 21-942 of the criminal code, deems illegal any type of social gathering that involves bets. Bets can include gambling with money, checks, credit cards, or other payment methods. There have been a couple of cases in Oklahoma where the police raided social gatherings. Even though the chances of that happening are low, it is recommended not to indulge in social gambling. Social gambling includes low-stakes and high-stakes poker games, betting pools, and similar.

Commercial Gambling

In Oklahoma, commercial gambling is illegal, and there are no commercial casinos. Any person caught organizing or participating in an illegal lottery or profiting from a gambling establishment can be subject to a fine, prison time, or both. Other activities also include collecting the proceeds of any gambling device, owning, controlling, managing, or financing a gambling business — the fine for commercial gambling is $25,000 or ten years in prison.

Tribal Casinos in Oklahoma

The Sooner state has had a long and complicated history between the government officials and the tribes. During the 1990s, Oklahoma tribes could not participate in the gambling business. At that time, the federal revenue from Indian gaming was around $54.6 million.

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act established three classes of gaming, and 16 years ago, Oklahoma was only allowed to conduct classes I and II. Oklahoma tribes refused to make a pact with the state since that pact didn’t allow many games. That meant that games such as craps, keno, roulette, slot machines, and more were not legal in Indian casinos.

After a lengthy legal battle, the governor passed the Senate Bill 1252 in favor of Oklahoma tribes in 2004. Since then, class III games are allowed in tribal casinos in Oklahoma. Today, there are more than 130 tribal casinos in the state.

Annually, the tribal gaming industry generates more than $4 billion in revenue. Tribal casinos only have to pay exclusivity fees from their class III earnings, which is about $2 billion yearly.

However, tribal online poker sites are not available in Oklahoma. The Arapaho and Cheyenne Tribes opened one such website in 2013, but the governor said that the site couldn’t feature any in-state real money. The governor allowed servicing international players, with 20% of the revenue going to the state. However, the Department of Indian Affairs did not allow it since it went against the IGRA laws. The project was dropped until 2016 when the Iowa Tribe took over and won the right to offer real money plays and cashouts.

Where to Gamble in Oklahoma?

There is a variety of options for tribal casinos in Oklahoma and here are our top three picks:

Riverwind Casino

Opened in 2006 in Norman, Riverwind Casinos are owned and operated by the Chickasaw Nation. Next to many casinos, the theatre hall, two restaurants, and several bars, they also opened an adjoining hotel in 2009. The casino floor holds 2,700 slot machines in addition to 20 gaming tables of blackjack, roulette, baccarat, and others. There are also 17 poker tables and many attractive rewards for players and visitors. One of them is called The Wild Card, and it offers many privileges that regular players cannot enjoy.

WinStar World Casino

Located next to the Texas–Oklahoma state line in Thackerville and opened in 2004, this casino offers the full package. The 370,000 square feet casino floor makes it the largest in the United States. Its hotel has more than 1300 rooms on 12 floors that were completely renovated in 2009. There are many restaurants and venues where celebrities, such as ZZ Top, Maroon 5 or Adam Lambert, have held their shows.

The casino floor offers a 55-table poker room, 8,500 electronic games, 100 table games, keno, bingo, and other gambling games. As with many other casinos, there are also various promotions that can help you win a lot of money in cash. There’s also off-track betting, golf club, and an RV park.

Choctaw Casinos and Resorts

There are eight Choctaw casinos and resorts in Oklahoma, owned and operated by the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. This article will focus on the location in Durant that opened in 2006. The site in Durant is the original gaming location widespread on 218,844 square feet. The casino floor has more than 4,200 slot machines. There is a Rewards Club card that offers many amenities. The owner of the card can collect points and earn Tier Credits, and those credits account for more gaming, free stays, dining and similar.

FAQ

Is online gambling legal in Oklahoma?

As we already mentioned, online gambling is illegal but with no strict punishments if caught. The unlawful action is a misdemeanor with fines from $25 to $100 and/or 30 days in county jail.

What is the legal gambling age for players in Oklahoma?

The legal gambling age in casinos where no alcohol is served is 18 years, and in casinos that serve alcohol, it is 21 years.

Are table games legal in Oklahoma?

Table games are legal in tribal casinos in Oklahoma, including class III games.

Are daily fantasy sports legal in Oklahoma?

Daily fantasy sports players are allowed to bet in Oklahoma on DraftKings, FanDuel, Fantasy Draft, and Yahoo!. However, they do not gain a lot of traction because of tribal casinos’ popularity.