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.
One Oklahoma gambler said he has been betting online for a few years and thinks it's safer than becoming involved in a betting operation with a bookie.
“At least no one threatens you online,” the man said. “A bookie in real life — somewhere it's not Las Vegas — generally they're shady people because if they're willing to break one law, they're willing to break other laws.”
Kimberlin said the volume of sports bets usually increases when there's a big sports showdown like the Super Bowl.
Life as a bookie
One of the most recent bookie busts the police department worked was the arrest of David Roy Tune.
Tune, 62, who pleaded guilty to illegal gambling charges, was known for taking bets on any type of sports event and had been working as a bookie for 30 years, Kimberlin said.
The investigation into his illegal operation began when the wife of a gambler called in a tip.
Investigators looked into the case for 20 months, Kimberlin said.
During an interview with Tune, Kimberlin said he learned a lot about his betting operation and crime associated with sports gambling. He told investigators that he never made less than $80,000 a year, Kimberlin said.
He said Tune also revealed to them that most of the bookies in Oklahoma City will at some point cross paths with members of the mob.
Kimberlin said many of the victims in Tune's operation received threats.
One man was threatened to be beaten, while another received a threat of having his house burned down, he said.
Wiley Harwell, executive director of the Oklahoma Association on Problem and Compulsive Gambling, said repercussions of sports betting have been deadly in some cases.
He said four people died at the University of Wisconsin after they found themselves swept up in sports gambling.
A freshman student killed three people in 2003 and hanged himself in a jail cell before his trial.
On average, college students have a higher risk of gambling, Harwell said.
“College students are kind of the perfect storm. They have credit cards that are offered to them,” Harwell said. “There are bookies on every college campus in the United States.”