Betting on sports has been a sport itself throughout the years in Oklahoma, but the Internet and the presence of a professional basketball team have opened the pool for more players.
Most of the money that is won or lost in the state hinges on the outcome of college and professional football games.
“That's the big moneymaker in Oklahoma City,” said police Lt. D. Kimberlin, who didn't want his first name used for this story.
But with the Thunder gaining popularity and advancing to the NBA Finals, sports bookies also are likely cashing in on the team's success.
“I can make an educated guess that more people are involved in sports betting as the Thunder season progresses,” Kimberlin said. “The Thunder just gave them something else to bet on.”
During the Thunder-San Antonio Spurs series, an Oklahoma City man made a $20 bet on Game 4 with another resident at his apartment complex. When the man lost the bet and refused to pay, he was severely beaten.
Police found the man bleeding from the face June 2 at his apartment at 4500 Cherry Hill Lane.
He was taken to a hospital and remains in critical condition.
Kimberlin said many crime victims won't come forward if they're involved in sports betting.
“It's not something you can statistically track,” he said.
Illegal? You bet
Placing a bet outside of a licensed facility — casino or horse racing track — or an approved function, such as a raffle, is illegal in Oklahoma, Kimberlin said. The law even applies to friendly bets.
Kimberlin has worked in the Oklahoma City police vice unit for 10 years, investigating complaints of illegal gambling in Oklahoma, Canadian and Cleveland counties.
He said people in Oklahoma have placed bets on sports games for decades, but the rise of the Internet in the 1990s made it easier to access games across the country.
“It's pretty easy to get on there and find an online betting source,” he said.
Most of the time people bet on NCAA football and basketball, as well as professional football, Kimberlin said.