Legal Oklahoma Poker Laws

A Guide to Poker in the State of Oklahoma

Oklahoma Gambling Laws

In this guide to poker in Oklahoma first up you can find a brief run-down of the history of gambling in this State. Then the question of whether or not poker is legal is addressed before giving you the options for live play in Oklahoma. Finally online poker is covered with thoughts on the possibilities of future legislation.

A Brief History of Gambling in Oklahoma

Poker and gambling was first brought to Oklahoma in the 1800s, although it was banned when the area became an official state in 1890. After this it would be nearly 100 years before any form of gambling was legal in this State again.

This came in the form of pari-mutuel betting on horse tracks in 1982. This was followed up in the 1990s by charity gambling and notably around the same time, tribes within the state were permitted to offer bingo games on their land. This started a long legal battle between the State and the tribes, who wanted the ability to offer more games.

Finally in 2002 the tribes got what they wanted, Oklahoma’s law makers finally allowed them to run a full casino operation offering table games including poker.

Is Poker Legal in Oklahoma?

Poker is legal in Oklahoma, although the laws define it as gambling and as such can only be played in regulated card rooms. This State takes a dim view of those organizing and taking part in illegal gambling and although the maximum fine for a player is a modest $100, up to 30 days in jail is a definite deterrent for most.

The act of betting helps define a gambling game in Oklahoma and the Statute specifically mentions poker, which means it would be very hard to argue against its classification as gambling.

Section 21-941:

“… 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…”

Oklahoma’s Options for Live Players

Tribal casinos in Oklahoma provide 17 poker rooms. These vary in size although all offer a wide range of cash game and local tournament action. Some of the bigger rooms such as Indigo Sky Casino have played host to the Heartland Poker tour and you can also find the Oklahoma State Championship running annually in February at the Hard Rock, Tulsa.

Home games are not technically legal, as there is no specific carve-out for social gambling. Despite this there have been no arrests by the authorities, so it would seem that if low key games do take place between friends, it would be unlikely to catch any police attention.

Bar leagues on the other hand are far more visible, as they are generally advertised and take part in a public place. While these leagues are free to enter, with prizes supplied by the house, there have been games broken up by the police, from which it must be assumed they are illegal. Meanwhile, charity games are permitted providing the organizers get a license for each event.

The Status of Online Poker in Oklahoma

While there is no direct mention of internet gambling or poker in the Statues, there is a section which may be applied:

Section 21-987(A): “Dissemination of gambling information is the transmitting or receiving, by means of any communications facilities, information to be used in making or settling bets.”

This combined with the wide ranging wording on the gambling law would indicate that online poker is illegal in Oklahoma. This theory has yet to be tested in a court of law as no-one has yet been arrested, let alone charged with playing online.

As the world has changed significantly since these laws were drafted there is no reason, that with its open view to regulated gambling, that Oklahoma may look at licensing online sites. This is still some time off however, with no talk of any bills at the moment.

Players from Oklahoma are still welcome to compete on the offshore sites which have many US citizens using them each day. These sites operate legally in their own countries and there is nothing in Federal law which prevents players accessing them. Although technically you may fall foul of State law by playing for real money as mentioned previously there have been no previous arrests.

In Summary – Oklahoma Poker

With many opportunities now to play poker in Oklahoma, it still seems surprising that no carve-out has been made to legalize home games. The casino games should provide enough round the clock action and for friendlier games you can find charity tournaments.

Online poker is not technically legal here, despite many enjoying games on offshore sites. There is hope for future online regulation, although this still appears to be a while off.