Indian gaming makes Oklahoma a capital of U.S. casinos

The first Native American-owned and -operated casinos in Oklahoma were founded in 1992. Today, over 100 casinos make the Sooner State the third-biggest provider of casino gaming – and among the leaders in horse racing – in the United States.
Game type Theme Game feature Rating

Oklahoma casinos – Indian gaming houses with slots, table games

No state outside of Nevada benefits from its casino industry as much as Oklahoma. While hosting the third-most casinos of any state, some 3% of the state’s economy is based in the 130 or so gambling establishments dotted through the state.

What’s more, Oklahoma casino operators are certainly good at their jobs, this was the only state in the country to see increases in gambling revenue (aside from, you guessed it, Nevada) every year between 2010 and ‘15. Maybe the state should just up and change its motto to “Oklahoma: The world’s finest Indian casinos”…

Vital Statistics

Population: 3.9 million (2017 est.)

Area: 69.960 sq. mi.

Gambling Age (Casinos): 18-21

Gambling Age (Lottery): 18

Number of Casinos: about 130


• It’s commonly known that whale hunting is illegal in Oklahoma, but no one seems to know how this law came to pass…

• In terms of per square area, Oklahoma has more tornados than any state.

• In 1935, the world’s first parking meter was installed in Oklahoma City.

• It is legal to have a tattoo in Oklahoma – since 2013.

History of Gambling in Oklahoma

You’ll pardon us for skipping directly to 1988. While glorious tales of poker-playing outlaws in saloons back in the Oklahoma territory days of the Wild West may certainly be told, the history of Oklahoma gambling pragmatically speaking begins with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA).

Thanks to then-extant laws regarding the legality of bingo, passage of IGRA made Oklahoma nearly literally overnight the United States’ leader in “Indian bingo halls.” More Native Americans call Oklahoma home than any other state except California, and over 8% of the entire population are Natives.

By 2000, over 100 bingo halls – filled with electronic versions of the game offering progressive jackpots and other enticing prizes – were doing business on reservation land. Relegated as gaming houses were at that time to offering only “Class II” type gaming, i.e. bingo but not electronic console games, Oklahoma courtrooms regularly heard lawsuits regarding the legality of these machines from 1990 to 2003.

Finally, in 2004, the anti-casino gambling interests were brushed aside as popular casino gaming was legalized that year in order to prop up the revenues of the state’s horse racing industry. Also established at that time were “exclusivity fees” that the state’s tribes would have to pay upon opening a casion so as to assure exclusivity within a regional market.

Casino Venues

Oklahoma casinos are simply far too numerous to mention in a space such as this: According to official estimates, over 75,000 electronic machines and 5,300 bingo seats are available in Oklahoma as of January 1, 2017. Suffice to say that, 30 Native American tribes operate between 125 and 130 casinos in the state. The Tulsa/Broken Arrow area have a bit higher concentration of casinos than most areas of the state, but just throw a dart at a map of the state, and you’ll find a casino within 60 miles or so.

The three racetracks in Oklahoma – the Remington Park Racetrack in Oklahoma City, the Fair Meadows in Tulsa and the Will Rogers Downs in Claremore – also include full-on casinos on site.

Casino Gambling Age Restrictions

At those Native American-run casino venues that do not serve alcohol, 18-year-olds and up can play. Otherwise, the age for casino gaming is 21. All other forms of gambling in Oklahoma, including pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing, require a minimum age of 18.

Famous Oklahoma gamblers

It seems paradoxical perhaps, but for most famous Oklahoma gambler, we’re going to put forth an anonymous man, namely the archetypical Frontier Gambler.

In the second half of the 19th century, America was indeed a land of opportunity, with gold rushes and oil booms and mining industries popping up hither and yon. Some clever folks, however, reckoned an easier way to make money – and without any of the messy stuff – was simply to operate games of chance (like the shell game) or skill games (like poker) and win.

Always quick-witted and coming off as more educated, the Frontier Gambler of Oklahoma lived off the “earnings” of speculators and miners alike, filling a void that most states wouldn’t seek to outlaw until the 1920s. And today, the Frontier Gambler is still remembered in popular media, fiction and history books.

Oklahoma gambling law (as of 2017)

Aside from gambling at the state’s horse tracks, casino gambling rights in Oklahoma are granted to casinos only. In addition, Native American-run casinos hold the exclusive rights to offer poker. Moves are being made to legalize online gambling (see below for more), but this looks to be a long while in coming.

Future of Gambling in Oklahoma

As though one couldn’t already glean from its status as supplying the country’s third-most casinos (behind only Nevada and California) with the 28th-largest population, Oklahoma *needs* its casino industry to stay healthy. A report from the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association released in February 2017 showed that the Native American-operated casinos earned $4.75 billion in 2015 (good for 3% of the state’s entire private financial production), with a total economic impact of $7.2 billion. In addition, in 10 yers, these casinos have paid over $1.1 billion in exclusivity fees.

The point: the casinos in Oklahoma are going nowhere.

More intriguingly, legislators across the state have becoming increasingly more interested in the possibilities of legalizing internet gambling in the state throughout the 2010s. What would certainly result from such legalization, however, is … a flurry of lawsuits. With so much paid by Oklahoma tribes for “exclusivity,” certain attorneys should have something to say about the right of the government to allow competition in spoken-for markets…

ma is definitely O-K for gambling in casinos…

Casinos in Oklahoma

Gaming Law Masters also notes an interesting item vis-a-vis casino technology. Because the tribes had begun added video and networking features into their class II technology, these bingo parlors were able to succeed financially and legally when questioned by the state of Oklahoma as to whether these were still class II machines.
Oklahoma is definitely O-K for gambling in casinos...