Though Oklahoma may be just as football-mad as its southerly neighbor, the truth is that for quite some time Texas has overshadowed good ol’ OK in the public consciousness. In terms of professional football and other major sports, this means major metropolitan areas such as Oklahoma City and Tulsa are typically thought of as secondary markets suitable only for novelty sports and desperate rogue football leagues at best – at least until the Oklahoma City Thunder came along…
NFLbets’ll tell you one area in which Oklahoma may in no way be considered seoncd-tier, though: Native American-operated casinos. In scope, availability and straight-up quantity only New Mexico can hold a candle to the outstanding industry the 1990s wrought. Of course, along with such a massive industry comes a disproportionate amount of legislative say over new forms of betting, likesay, betting on NFL football.
Betting in Oklahoma
Without fear of contradiction NFLbets may say (write?) that, after Nevada, no state benefits more from betting than does Oklahoma. According to an official study undertaken in 2015, a whopping 3% of the state’s entire GDP is based in the 130 or so gaming houses, bingo parlors and casinos in Oklahoma. In addition, Oklahoma’s is the only casino industry in which revenues have increased every year in the 2010s – a time period when the North American casino industry as a hole is in fairly critical decline.
Other statistics are just as mind-boggling. As of this writing, Oklahoma casinos are home to over 75,000 slots and other electronic games. Nearly every one of the state’s three dozen or so massive bingo parlors is open nightly, and over 5,300 seats are open for the taking. Finally, it has been calculated that, from anywhere in Oklahoma, the maximum trip to the nearest casino is 60 minutes.
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.
Beyond the Native American casinos, however, Oklahoma law on betting gets weird. Despite the state legislature’s allowance of full-on casino gaming at the state’s horse tracks in the 2010s, the original law banning all games of chance still stands as the default on non-Native property and hoo boy, can local law enforcement get righteous about busting illegal betting with resultant soap-operatic headlines. Like in 2011, when a veteran police officer was busted for his part in the largest illegal betting operation found in the state in decades. Or in 2012, when a murder was tied into blackmail and illegal gambling. Or busts in 2015 or ’17 of citizens playing online poker – no joke.
AS it stands, daily fantasy sports and online football betting are illegal under the old state law. Assuredly, most Oklahomans take this law pretty seriously.
Football in Oklahoma
A few wonky attempts at establishing pro football franchises aside, Oklahoma’s football pride is all about the college game. And why not? The Oklahoma Sooners are one of the all-time great college football programs, while the Oklahoma State Cowboys and University of Tulsa Golden Hurricane have also enjoyed some success through the years.
But it all starts with the Sooners, and any attempt to summarize this football teams achievements in anything less than book-length text is sheer folly. Since playing its first game in 1895, the Sooners have run up stats about as impressive as that of the Oklahoma casino industry enumerated above: How about *47* conference titles,10 national championships, 31 top-five ranked finishes, 22 seasons of 11 wins or more, the highest cumulative winning percentage of all-time, and 11 Heisman Trophies won by 10 players going into 2018? As with a Notre Dame, more instructional in this short space might be to simply express the team’s history through the names who have graced the field and/or sidelines of this remarkable program.
So here’s a tracing of football history, purely through Sooners personalities: Bennie Owen, Bill Jones, Bud Wilkinson, Jerry Tubbs, Tommy McDonald, Ralph Neely, Steve Owens, Greg Pruitt, Derland Moore, Barry Switzer, Dexter Bussey, Lee Roy Selmon, Billy Sims, Brian Bosworth, Troy Aikman, Keith Traylor, Roy Williams, Adrian Peterson, Sam Bradford and Baker Mayfield.
Oklahoma State, meanwhile, cannot boast such a storied history as the Sooners’ – of course, quite literally no other program truly can. The team first started playing in 1900, but was mired in mediocrity for a couple of decades before the wonderfully named Pappy Waldorf took over coaching duties. From 1930 to ’33, the Cowboys were 30-7-5 cumulative, including an 8-0 mark against fellow Missouri Valley Conference teams and three divisional titles.
The war years were good for OSU football: Playing against depleted teams in 1944-45, the Cowboys ran up records of 8-1 and 9-0, won their first two bowl games, and finished the ’45 season ranked no. 5 in the country. The team wouldn’t see another winning record until ’53 and didn’t play in another bowl game until ’58.
Under coach Pat Jones, the Cowboys enjoyed quite a fruitful 1980s – for a while, anyway. From 1984 to ’88, OSU played in four bowl games and earned three top-12 finishes, peaking at no. 5 at the end of the ’84 season. The good times wouldn’t last, though: In Jones last six (!) seasonscoaching the team, the Cowboys were just 18-45-3 cumulative.
Happily, the apex of Oklahoma State football may be the present. Current head coach Mike Gundy has led the Cowboys to winning records in 12 of his 13 seasons at the helm. OSU has appeared in bowl games for 12 consecutive seasons going into 2018 and boasts six top-20 finishes in that time. And Gundy’s 2011 team led by RB Joseph Randle and WR Justin Blackmon which won the Big 12, topped Stanford in a brilliant Fiesta Bowl game and ended the season ranked no. 3 is the greatest Oklahoma State football team ever.
The Tulsa Golden Hurricane is probably Oklahoma’s third college football team by fandom, but in all fairness may actually boast a richer history of winning than can OSU. First playing in 1895, Tulsa didn’t really emerge as a national force until head coach Henry Frnka helped lead the team into five straight bowl appearances from 1941 to ’45. No Tulsa head coach has gotten the Golden Hurricane to more than three since. From 2003 to ‘’17, Tulsa played in 10 bowl games, but these are of the distinctly minor variety.
All the rabid fandom shown to these college teams (not to mention ridiculously strong support for high school football) certainly got would-be pro football franchise owners thinking about untapped markets more than once – though only once did a pro football team call Oklahoma home: The Oklahoma Outlaws of the USFL.
A league like the USFL would seem to be perfect for Tulsa and Oklahoma, but one supposed hindsight is 20/20. When the league awarded a franchise to Fresno banker William Tathum, he wanted to plant a team in San Diego, then considered Honolulu before settling on Tulsa. The 1984 Oklahoma Outlaws were quarterbacked by Doug Williams and got off to a 6-2 start.
For the Outlaws, however, it seemed the writing was on the wall before the wall was up. Just three games into the season, Outlaws director of football operations William Tathum Jr. announced that Tulsa’s stadium was inadequate and that the team would likely move for the ’85 season. Despite this and the 10-game losing streak to close out the year, the Outlaws drew over 21,000 per game, fourth-best in the USFL.
But Junior made good on his promise and the team became the Arizona Outlaws for the USFL’s final season. Since then, professional football in Oklahoma has appeared only in indoor form, via teams like the Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz, Oklahoma Wranglers, Tulsa Talons and the Oklahoma Defenders. So, um … how ’bout them Sooners?
Betting on Football in Oklahoma
On one hand, most betting is frowned upon in Oklahoma outside the casinos. On the other hand, games like daily fantasy football are pretty much accepted without trouble, almost as though the law making all games of chance illegal remains simply for a convenient excuse to bust an unsuspecting perp whenever convenient.
In 2017, legislation was introduced to state lawmakers which would regulate and decriminalize DFS games, but the bill has seemingly been met with little more than indifference. NFLbets would guess that legality of sports betting will stay in legal limbo in Oklahoma for some time – and residents may want to know the law and watch their backs.