Legislation that would allow tribes that have gaming compacts with Oklahoma add the sportsbook to the menu of entertainment options is an idea worth betting on.
Placing a bet on athletic events is legal already in 30 states, including the neighboring states of Arkansas and Kansas. And similar moves are being considered in 15 other states -- it's a trend that has gained steam since 2018, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act unconstitutional.
Legal bets placed on sporting events contributed to a $26 billion industry in 2020. That industry is expected to grow even larger as the world breaks free from the grips of a global pandemic.
But it will be an industry from which Oklahoma and tribes with gaming compacts cannot benefit without legislative approval. State Rep. Ken Lutrell, R-Ponca City, author of House Bill 3008, will remedy that situation.
Of course, some may harbor concerns about expanding the scope of legalized gambling in Oklahoma due to moral or religious objections. We never would discount those concerns, but evidence shows Oklahomans already bet on sports. contributing to an underground economy that supports criminal activities.
Legalizing the sportsbook would ensure gaming profits benefit local economies, which thrive when sovereign tribal nations rise from firm financial footings. Strong communities and additional funding for public schools make Oklahoma a better place to do business.
As this measure moves forward, legislators must resist calls to open this opportunity to commercial enterprises that would compete with Oklahoma's federally recognized tribes. Those profits would flow to corportions outside the state.
We will ante up on legalized sports betting, but it must remain local.