Oklahoma House approves expanded gaming

Oklahoma House approves expanded gaming
(MN File Photo) The Oklahoma House of Representatives approved HB 3375 March 8, which would allow tribal casinos to offer craps and roulette.

Lenzy Krehbiel-Burton/Mvskoke Media Correspondent

Bill would permit craps, roulette

OKLAHOMA CITY — A measure aimed at potentially expanding tribal gaming in Oklahoma is one step closer to be coming law.

On Thursday morning, the state House of Representatives approved House Bill 3375, which would allow tribal casinos to offer craps and roulette. In exchange, tribes that sign off on the extra gaming provisions will be required to pay the state 10 percent of its monthly net winnings from each new offering as an exclusivity fee.

The bill originally called for the expansion of betting on sporting events as well, but that language was removed from the House floor via an amendment from the measure’s author, Rep. Kevin Wallace (R-Wellston).

“Based on opposition from within the building, I’m hearing that sports book is the biggest problem,” he said. “Ball and dice games don’t seem to be a problem. Those games are already being played, just without the die or the ball.”

The amended measure passed by a 66-22 count, with nine representatives excused from the vote. Two seats are currently vacant.

Among the no votes were several representatives with districts overlapping into the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s boundaries, including Reps. Chuck Strohm (R-Jenks), George Faught (R-Muskogee) and Mike Ritze (R-Broken Arrow).

With the State of Oklahoma facing a multi-million dollar budget shortfall for the coming fiscal year and the threat of a teacher walk-out without increased education funding by April 2, a similar bill is also pending in the state Senate.

According to a study commissioned by the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Commission, tribal casinos have paid the state more than $1.1 billion in exclusivity fees since the implementation of Oklahoma’s Class III gaming compacts in 2006. Exclusivity fees from the expansion are projected to generate about $22 million in the first year and $49 million annually in the coming years.

A similar measure was introduced during the 2017 regular session but failed. On Jan. 19, the notion was among the amendments tacked on to Gov. Mary Fallin’s call for the Oklahoma Legislature’s second special session, but was not addressed during the extra session.

If adopted, the first $20,833 provided monthly to the state under the new provisions would go directly to the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse. Of the remaining funds, 88 percent are slated to go to the State’s Education Revolving Fund.

Current gaming compacts with the State of Oklahoma are scheduled to end Jan. 1, 2020. However, the compacts contain an evergreen clause, which would allow the terms to roll over and remain in place as long as neither side requests a renegotiation within 180 days of that deadline.

“We’re not changing the compact at all. Those terms will still be in place,” Wallace said. “I believe if you want to talk about leverage… I believe sports books will be that leverage and we took that out of the bill.”

The measure now goes on to the Oklahoma Senate. As of March 12, the measure has not been scheduled for a Senate committee hearing.

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