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Oklahoma Legal Poker

Last Update: April 4, 2015

Online Poker

The OSS definition of “bet” at §21-981 and the OSS crime of “dissemination of gambling information” (§21-987) are both broad enough to potentially cover online poker. Oklahoma’s definition of “bet” does rely on chance more than most states do, but remember that the play of poker is prohibited by OSS §21-942, as discussed above. Players and operators would have to argue that poker is a skill game and that the actual play of online poker is not happening in Oklahoma.
Even in that instance, however, §21-987 prohibits people from “transmitting or receiving, by means of any communication facilities, information to be used in making or settling bets”. Violation of this statute is a felony, and it would seem to cover online poker scenarios in which a player is playing from Oklahoma, since certain “gambling information” would have to be transmitted from the player’s location.

As with the home poker games (Teddy Mitchell’s unique case excepted), there is no record of a prosecution ever being brought under this statute.

Live Poker

As a state, Oklahoma does not license, regulate or permit any form of casino gambling, including poker. That restriction is codified in the Oklahoma State Statutes at §21-941. The play of all such games, including poker, is prohibited by OSS §21-942. Violating that law is a misdemeanor.

Note that there is no exception for private home games under Oklahoma law. Such games are technically illegal. In fact, §21-946 makes guilty of a felony the “keepers and managers” of any house, room or place where such a game takes place. Although no one has ever been arrested solely for running a home game, in September 2012 the FBI arrested Oklahoma City resident Teddy Mitchell for bookmaking and for operating a raked poker game from his home.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. In 2004, Oklahoma voters approved of laws authorizing tribal gaming in the state. Under the terms of the relevant tribal-state compacts, tribes can offer bingo, “electronic amusement games”, and non-house-banked card games like poker. In the following two years, roughly three dozen tribes executed compacts with the state.

As of 2013 many of those tribes are flourishing. The most successful casino appears to be the Winstar Casino, just across the state line from Texas near I-35 in the south central portion of Oklahoma. Winstar has a 46-table poker room and plays host each August to “The River” tournament series, which culminates with a $2100 Main Event.

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