Oklahoma legalized craps and roulette at its tribal casinos this week when Governor Mary Fallin signed House Bill 3375 into law, shorn of a provision that would have legalized sports betting.
The provision which would have permitted casinos to open sports books in the event that the US Supreme Court strikes down PASPA, as expected, was severed from the bill in mid-March by the bill’s sponsor Kevin Wallace (R-District 32).
While Wallace declined to offer a comment about why the provision was tabled when contacted by Sporthandle.com this week, the website speculates that the decision may have been made at the request of the state’s powerful tribal operators.
Did the Tribes Jettison Sports Betting?
Almost all of Oklahoma’s 60-odd casinos are run by 32 distinct tribes. Tribal casinos across the US are nominally in favor of sports betting but remain circumspect in reality.
While the National Indian Gaming Association recently lent its support to the American Gaming Association’s American Sports Betting Coalition, for example, the tribes themselves remain wary of any gambling expansion that requires renegotiation of their state compacts, especially where commercial operators also stand to benefit.
It seems that Oklahoma’s tribal operators would prefer to wait to see if sports betting is worth the risk of reworking 32 state compacts before they make a commitment.
Sports betting, after all, is a low-margin business, the function of which for casinos is largely to attract more players in the hope they will spend money on other games, and it may not be worth the trouble.
The tribes would certainly not have wanted to jeopardize the enactment of their ball and dice bill because it was attached to sports betting provision that had appeared rushed.
The provision contained little in the way of concrete procedures or regulations for how wagering would actually be conducted.
Dicey but Ballsy
The legalization of craps and roulette, illegal since 2004, is a real victory for the casinos however. This is not the kind of craps and roulette you get in Vegas, but a non-house-banked version, in which gamblers’ wins and losses are put in a players’ pool.
Prior to the new rules, Oklahoma casinos have offer their own inventions known as “Bonus Craps” and “Bonus Roulette” which use electronic cards instead of roulette wheels and dice, while showing video versions of wheels spinning and dice being tossed – hence the description of HB 3375 as a “ball and dice” bill.