Oklahoma House Narrowly OKs Gaming Bill

Oklahoma House Narrowly OKs Gaming Bill
Photo: File
The Oklahoma House narrowly approved a measure Feb. 26 that gives racetracks such as Remington Park the right to operate the same type of electronic games that Indian casinos do, and sent the bill to Gov. Brad Henry for his signature.

Henry lobbied in support of the measure, Senate Bill 553. A portion of the projected $71 million it is expected to raise for the state in the first year goes to education.

According to The Oklahoman, hundreds of people packed inside the House gallery cheered as lawmakers approved the gaming bill by a 52-47 vote. It followed a debate of more than two hours.

Education leaders, horsemen and tribal leaders all lobbied for the bill's approval.

"Never before have we had so many groups in agreement on an issue so important to our state," said House Speaker Larry Adair, (D-Stilwell).

Horsemen in Oklahoma contended they needed gaming approved because of pressure from New Mexico and Louisiana tracks, where slot machines are allowed. They believe purses will increase by more than $30 million at Remington, Will Rogers Downs and Blue Ribbons Downs.

Besides authorizing class II electronic games at those racetracks, the gaming compact allows some non-house bank card games.

Opponents said gambling-related social problems, including increased bankruptcies and expenses for social services, will be caused.

"This bill has the potential for more devastating effects to our state, our economy and our family than any bill I've seen in my time," said House Minority Leader Rep. Todd Hiett (R-Kellyville).

The bill passed the Oklahoma Senate by a 30-18 vote last week.

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