There is a throng of gambling opportunities in Oklahoma available to residents, including more than 50 tribal casinos throughout the state, about half of which offer poker tournaments and/or cash games to their patrons. There are also two “racinos” (pari-mutuel raceway parks that present limited casino-style gambling) in Oklahoma. They offer a state-run lottery and a wide scale ‘charitable bingo’ market as well. The Sooner State may not be on a parallel plateau with Las Vegas, but for gambling enthusiasts, opportunities abound for Oklahomans.
What the OK statutes fail to explicitly address is the legality of online poker games. The laws aren’t necessarily outdated, but lawmakers have yet to include the terms ‘online’ or ‘internet’ into their current gambling legislation. That fact has left many people in the state wondering if there are indeed any online poker laws in Oklahoma, either permitting or prohibiting the activity for real money play.
Legality of Online Poker in Oklahoma
When a legislative body fails to address an issue directly, it is left to the people who are governed by that administration to interpret the relative laws for themselves. That is precisely what many ‘Sooners’ have been trying to do – to decipher Oklahoma’s online poker laws. A very low margin of the US population is educated in the decryption of legal jargon, and we don’t claim to be professional advisors on the subject either. Our goal is to translate the correlating gambling laws of each state to the best of our abilities and give our own opinion as to whether it’s legal to play online poker in said territory, but as always, we strongly recommend obtaining legal advice from a licensed practitioner of law in your own state for a 100% accurate response.
Oklahoma Statutes – Gambling
The following excerpts are taken from the Oklahoma Statutes, Title 21, Chapter 38: Gambling. Note that some text may have been abridged to sustain relativity and fluency, but the meaning has not been altered.
Except as provided in the Oklahoma Charity Games Act [which permits authorized charitable bingo games and breakopen (pulltab) tickets], every person who opens, or causes to be opened, or who conducts, whether for hire or not, or carries on either poker, roulette, craps or any banking or percentage, or any gambling game played with dice, cards or any device, for money, checks, credits, or any representatives of value, or who either as owner or employee, whether for hire or not, deals for those engaged in any such game, shall be guilty of a felony, and upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by a fine of not less than Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00), nor more than Two Thousand Dollars ($2,000.00), and by imprisonment in the State Penitentiary for a term of not less than one (1) year nor more than ten (10) years
Any person who bets or plays at any of said prohibited games [see § 21-942], or who shall bet or play at any games whatsoever, for money, property, checks, credits or other representatives of value with cards, dice or any other device which may be adapted to or used in playing any game of chance or in which chance is a material element, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction thereof shall be punished by a fine of not less than Twenty-five Dollars ($25.00), nor more than One Hundred Dollars ($100.00), or by imprisonment in the county jail for a term of not less than one (1) day, nor more than thirty (30) days, or by both such fine and imprisonment.
A “bet” is a bargain in which the parties agree that, dependent upon chance, or in which one of the parties to the transaction has valid reason to believe that it is dependent upon chance, one stands to win or lose something of value specified in the agreement. A bet does not include [bona fide business transaction, charity games, offers of purses/prizes/premiums for authorized shows/contests]
A “gambling device” is a contrivance designed primarily for gambling purposes which for a consideration affords the player an opportunity to obtain something of value, the award of which is determined by chance, or any token, chip, paper, receipt or other document which evidences, purports to evidence or is designed to evidence participation in a lottery or the making of a bet. The fact that the prize is not automatically paid by the device does not affect its character as a gambling device
What does it all mean? Is online poker illegal in Oklahoma?
From the laws above, we can draw the conclusion that online poker is illegal in Oklahoma. We come to this deduction by comparing the penalties for illegal betting, which range from misdemeanor for players up to a felony for conductors, to the definition of a “bet” and “gambling device”. The description of a bet relates to games ‘dependent on chance’, but the skill factor argument is removed by the penalty for betting, which clearly includes poker as an illegal activity. A gambling device is any mechanism “designed primarily for gambling”, and while computers and mobile devices aren’t primarily designed for betting, the software and applications that are used to play online poker are.
In short, any type of wagering that is not expressly authorized by the state laws of Oklahoma (i.e. Oklahoma Charity Games Act, State-Tribal Gaming Act, Oklahoma Horse Racing Act, etc.) is illegal by default. And since Oklahoma does not authorize or regulate any online poker sites, we have to assume that online poker is illegal in the Sooner State.
Is Oklahoma working to regulate online poker?
Oklahoma does not directly regulate any forms of gambling outside of its own state-run lottery. Legislators have a history of staying out of gambling related matters by leaving the vast majority of the state’s gaming enterprise to tribal casino operators. With that in mind, it’s not surprising that law makers are not pursuing any efforts to legalize and regulate online poker in Oklahoma at this time.
However, a recent development by Native American tribes raises questions as to whether Oklahoma’s immense tribal casino industry could expand into online poker and other online gambling amusements without the need of a state regulated market. The Tribal Internet Gaming Alliance was formed earlier this year and has already been ratified by one tribe in Wisconsin. TIGA was designed to operate within the laws of the IGRA (Indian Gaming Regulatory Act), the federal government and individual state laws. If Oklahoma tribes were to ratify TIGA as well, it could put them in a position to launch online poker sites, perhaps as early as next year.