Legal Poker & Gambling Laws in Oklahoma

Oklahoma Poker Laws

Is Online Poker / Gambling Legal in Oklahoma?

Oklahoma allows a great deal more gambling than most southern states, though a landmark Supreme Court decision forced Oklahoman hands in one regard. The state and its Native American population has made a virtue of those rulings, so citizens of many nearby states make the trek to Oklahoma for their gambling fun. The Oklahoma state laws allow gambling, but they regulate the industry heavily with three different regulatory bodies: Oklahoma Office for State Finance Games Compliance Unit, the Oklahoma Charity Gaming Enforcement for charitable gaming, and the Oklahoma Racing Commission. 

I'll talk about each of these divisions of the Oklahoma government in their turn. The Oklahoma Racing Commission oversees all parimutuel wagers in the state, while the Oklahoma Charity Gaming Enforcement deals with nonprofit gaming, especially bingo. The Office for State Finance Games Compliance Unit regulates Indian casinos through compliance with the Gaming Compact.

What is the Law Regarding Poker in Oklahoma?

Let's continue by taking a closer look at the legal treatment poker receives under Oklahoma law. Oklahoma law is one of the few states (Ohio is another) that specifically mentions the game of poker when defining what it means to gambling in legal terms. You can find the complete definition by referring to Section 21-941 of Oklahoma's state code, but the fact that poker is mentioned directly is all we need to know for this section.
Understanding that poker is considered gambling leads to our next question: What forms of gambling that involve poker are legal in Oklahoma?

The main outlet for legal poker in the state is definitely the numerous tribal casinos that are spread across much of Oklahoma's landscape. The Hard Rock Poker Room in Tulsa and the Riverwind Casino in Oklahoma City are just two of the poker rooms offering year-round action to Oklahoma poker players.

If you're not a fan of the casino experience, however, your legal poker options are quite limited. A close reading of Oklahoma law reveals no exception for social gambling - the exception commonly used to cover home games or private games of poker. And while numerous ways to gamble under a charitable exception were legalized by the Oklahoma Charity Games Act (Section 3A-401), poker was not among them.
To sum it up in a sentence: Legal real-money poker in Oklahoma appears to be restricted to the games offered by regulated casinos.

Are Horse Races Legal in Oklahoma? Is it Legal To Bet On Races?

The horse racing laws in Oklahoma allow not only parimutuel betting and off-track wagers, but also gaming machines at these racing venues. Three Native American racinos can be found in the state, including Will Rogers Downs and Cherokee Casino in Claremore, the Rivermist Casino and Race Track in Konawa, and the famous Remington Park in Oklahoma City. A more traditional horse racing track is found in Tulsa at Fair Meadows Park. All four of these venues are subject to the authority of the Oklahoma Racing Commission.

Lottery Laws in Oklahoma

The lottery laws are pretty standard among American states. The Games like Pick 3, Pick 4, Cash 5, and Hot Lotto are available at many locations throughout the state, while Mega Millions lottery tickets and Powerball lotto tickets can be purchased at the same venues. The Oklahoma State Lottery regulates these sales.

Oklahoma ABLE Laws

The Alcoholic Beverage Law Enforcement Commission, also known as the ABLE Commission, handles charitable gaming duties inside Oklahoma. Besides handling charity bingo halls and nonprofit games under the auspices of the Oklahoma Charity Gaming Enforcement Division, the ABLE Commission is empowered to enforce laws on underage tobacco access and alcoholic beverages for all ages.

A Short History of Oklahoma Indian Tribes

Oklahoma was a territory no white settlers considered desirable, so many of the Native American tribes east of the Mississippi River were given reservations inside its boundaries. During the administration of George Washington, efforts were made to convince eastern Indian tribes to adopt European or American customs. Because of this process, the group of natives known as Five Civilized Tribe--The Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Seminole, and Creek Indians--existed in the southeast United States in the early decades of the 19th century.

White people living in these southern states wanted access to these tribal lands, so a movement was started to remove these tribes beyond the Mississippi River to the "west". This led to the Indian Removal Act of 1830 and eventually to the Trail of Tears in 1838, where whole Indian tribes were forced to relocate west, often to Oklahoma. While the process was considered voluntary, great pressure was brought on these tribes to move west. Many of these tribes found themselves on reservations in Oklahoma, which was a U.S. territory through most of the 1800s. Only when the federal government gave free land to white settlers in the 1890s did Oklahoma become a state. As a sidenote, some of these new settlers were "sooners" who crossed the settlement line prior to the legally appointed time in the 1890s, in order to get the best land. Once settlers came to Oklahoma, the Native Americans' reservations were once again encroached upon by Anglos.

Learn About Other State Laws

Casino Gaming Laws in Oklahoma

The tribes who were removed to reservations in Oklahoma now host some of the world's largest casinos on their reservations. The Choctaw Indians hosted Choctaw Bingo as early as 1987 in Durant, Oklahoma, but that property has now given way to the Choctaw Casino in the same area, which has 4,500 slot machines alone. While regular gamblers come from as far away as Kansas, Arkansas, and Louisiana, much of the clientele is from the Dallas-Fort Worth area, located a little over an hour away. This is the flagship of a gambling empire owned by the Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma, including 11 different gambling operations.

The Win Star World Casino in nearby Thackerville (about 30 miles away) houses some 7,200 gaming machines, along with off-track betting, table games, and bingo. The Win Star Casino is owned by the Chickasaw Nation, which proudly declares itself at the entrance to their baroque casino "Unconquered and Unconquerable". The Cherokee Nation owns 8 different casinos and 1 racinos, which is a race track combined with aspects of a casino (mainly gaming machines). The Creek Indians and the Comanche own 4 casinos apiece. In total, 111 different gambling establishments are located inside the state boundaries of Oklahoma. Most of these are owned by Native Americans.