The road to getting sports betting legalized in Washington state started off slowly, with traction coming off of the Supreme Court’s 2018 ruling to strike down the 1992 federal law that outlawed sports gaming in most states.
In recent months, it gained momentum, finally reaching its peak point last Wednesday. While it’s not during the most opportune timing with the current nationwide casino closures due to the coronavirus pandemic alongside the suspension of major league sports, it’s still great news for the Evergreen State.
On Wednesday, Washington officially became the 21st state to legalize sports betting when Governor Jay Inslee signed the bill into law. Currently, a total of 20 other states now have legal, regulated sports betting industries, with other states passing legislation and contemplating sports-gambling bills.
The legalization in Washington does come with its limits, however.
Unlike its neighboring state, Oregon, Washington will not allow internet or mobile betting options, outside of mobile betting while on the property of tribal casinos. They’ve also decided to limit sports betting on the premises of tribal casinos, only.
“This will give people an opportunity to participate in a new gaming activity that is safe and well-regulated by the tribes,” the Democratic governor advised.
Why Tribal Casinos?
So why limit sports betting to tribal casinos in the state?
Well, the state’s 29 federally-recognized tribes regularly testified in front of legislative committees about all the good they would be able to accomplish with gaming profits.
They also argued that since Washingtonians would prefer to limit the expansion of gambling, they should be crowned the sole partners to provide sports betting to the people.
The Washington state House of Representatives and the Senate approved the motion to limit sports betting to tribal casino premises in wide margins.
“The tribes, as we have seen, do an excellent job of funding problem gambling programs and that’s why I support keeping this within the tribal casino system,” Sen. Derek Stanford, D-Bothell, said in a committee executive session ahead of early February’s vote.
Betting Allowed on Wide Range of Sporting Events
A wide range of sporting events will be included in Washington state’s sports wagering authorization, including college sports, professional sports, Olympic and World Cup competitions, overseas leagues, and popular video game tournaments, known as eSports.
This seems like a promising variety, but it will be some time before we see how well sports betting does in the state amid the widespread shutdown of athletic events.
That could be an upside, however, since it’ll take some time for leagues to start up again alongside tribes needing to negotiate regulatory agreements with the state.
Washington Indian Gaming Association Executive Director Thanks Governor for Signing Bill
Rebecca Kaldor, Washington Indian Gaming Association Executive Director, gave Governor Inslee a big thank you for signing the law into existence, despite the unfortunate timing of sports being suspending and casinos being closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
”The revenue generated by tribal gaming funds critical needs in our communities,” Kaldor said.
”Tribal communities and governments are currently dealing with the devastating impacts of the coronavirus pandemic,” she continued. ”As we recover from this crisis, the addition of this amenity will help tribal governments fund the essential services their members will need to get back up on their feet.”
Bill Limit Opponents
Despite objections that Indian Tribes would be granted a monopoly with the decision while hurting smaller commercial-card casinos, the bill still passed successfully.
Among the opponents were Nevada-based Maverick Gaming. Over last year, the company was able to secure 19 of the state’s 44 commercial card-room casinos. Maverick argued that they should be given some control over the lucrative sports gambling market.
According to Maverick Gaming Chief Executive Eric Persson’s stance in the public hearings regarding sports legalization, he believes Washington state could lose up to $50 million a year in tax revenues by not authorizing sports betting to expand past tribal casinos.
Updated List of States with Legal Sports Betting
For those keeping track at home, here is an updated list of the current states allowing legalized sports betting:
Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Washington, Washington DC, and West Virginia.
Stay tuned to see what develops over the next few weeks in the legalized sports betting world, and to see how the casino shutdown turns out amid the outbreak.