The recently completed Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association Convention was noteworthy for several reasons. The Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association (OIGA) is a partnership of several local tribes that each operates one or more casinos in the state. By uniting and cooperating with each other for decades, the OIGA has created a well-organized land based casino infrastructure in Oklahoma.
The OIGA is proof that in many industries, including gaming, there is enough for everyone to share a piece of the pot. In the case of Oklahoma, the pot is quite large as the state is centrally located and draws players from many surrounding states as well as from Oklahoma itself.
Thirty-two state recognized tribes run the land based casinos in Oklahoma. There are no licensed private casinos in the state so when the OIGA holds its annual meeting it is closely watched locally and by industry people throughout the country.
The annual conventions seek to find ways to increase casino bonuses to players at land based casinos. It is well known that online casinos have an easier time offering bonuses to players because the players are not limited by time at online casinos. Even though there are over 60 land based casinos in Oklahoma, it is difficult to “sell” gamers on cash bonuses since the gamers may not come back to a land based casino for months, years, or ever. The first type of “casino bonus” the association has sought to be able to offer has long been ball and dice games.
Ball and Dice Games
There are at least 60 Indian run land based casinos in Oklahoma but they have not previously been permitted to offer ball and dice games. These games are primarily craps and roulette. The OIGA led lobbying efforts to get that part of the state gambling law changed and this year, in time for the convention, the law was indeed changed.
The legal process for Native American casinos is that first the state where the casinos are located must pass a new law or change an existing law and then the appropriate office in the Federal Bureau of Indian affairs must approve the change. So, although the Oklahoma state legislature passed the law, the Federal government has not yet given its final approval. Said approval is expected by the end of the year.
Playing against Each Other
The new law regarding ball and dice games in Oklahoma is that players would be playing against each other rather than against the house. By playing ball and dice games against other players, the new law sets up a zero sum game in which some win and some lose. In traditional ball and dice games, the house always had an edge and often all players lost.
Raising Tax Money
The newly legalized games are expected to generate $10 million dollars for the state in the first year after it is implemented but that sum is expected to double in the second year as the casinos will attract players who prefer ball and dice games and had never gone to the land based casinos before. After doubling in year two, the games will generate an increasing amount of tax revenue to the state although growth is not expected to double again.
The 60+ Indian casinos in Oklahoma send upwards of $130 million per year to the state treasury.
Excitement at the Convention
Speaking for the association Dean Luthey said that the new law would give local Oklahomans the chance to stay in state and get “the full casino experience.”
While ball and dice games have been on the back burner for years and so have lost a bit of their previous gravitas, the new “game in town” is sports betting. Oklahoma is one of the many states that waited for the US Supreme Court to rule on the constitutionality of PASPA, the law from 1990 that made sports betting illegal in all but four states (Delaware, Oregon, Montana, and Nevada).
The Supreme Court voided the \law in May of this year and Oklahoma along with about twenty other states began talking about how they would implement sports betting in the state if at all.
Through the association and also at the convention the OIGA has been pro-active pushing for legislation that would a) legalize sports betting in Oklahoma and b) make it legal only through land based casinos.
The members of the OIGA understand that most states that already are set to go with sports betting are allowing it through land based casinos. Some states are also talking about allowing it through online casinos affiliated with land based casinos. Prominent sports betting online sites are fast partnering with land based casinos to facilitate sports betting in time for the American football, basket=ball, and hockey seasons and the Major League Baseball playoffs.
If sports betting is allowed in Oklahoma and only through land based casinos, the established casinos would enjoy a windfall of business. People coming to bet on sports events would buy one or two nights in the hotel, and would naturally gravitate to the gaming floor, to the casinos’ restaurants and pubs, to the shows, and to everything else the casinos have to offer.
Small, local businesses also hope to gain some of the increased business spending from people who had never come to the casino before. In addition to the obvious hotels and motels, gas stations, restaurants and the like, tourist attraction proprietors also hope to see a rise in their business from sports betting and the new law allowing ball and dice games at local casinos.