Washington State Passes Sports Gambling Bill
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Washington State Passes Sports Gambling Bill

Washington State Passes Sports Gambling Bill

Washington Senate has approved an emergency bill to authorize sports gambling.

EHB 2638 was passed by a vote of 34-15, way above the required 60%, on Thursday March 5th.

The bill was not without controversy, mainly concerning the fact that only Native American tribal casinos will be allowed to introduce sports betting. The bill excludes all commercial card room casinos.

The state is missing out on up to $50 million in annual tax revenue by keeping other operators out of the game. An emergency provision attached to the bill ensured that it wouldn’t be up for a statewide referendum, making it easier and quicker for the bill to be signed.

Minor amendments to the bill have been reapproved by the House, and it is now ready for Governor Jay Inslee to sign.

CEO of Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe W. Ron Allen said: “The 29 tribes in Washington State have a deep historical experience overseeing responsible gaming for three decades.

“We have a trusted, successful partnership with the state where we have effectively managed gaming in a controlled environment and avoided widespread expansion.”

Maverick Gaming, a huge opponent of the bill, has vowed to spend huge sums of money to block the bill from becoming law. The operator is set to work with others excluded from the bill to spend what is estimated to be in the millions.

Washington has always favored tribal-run casinos, despite being one of the most liberal states in the country when it comes to gambling.

Only tribal-run gambling venues within the state are allowed to offer craps, roulette, slots, video poker, and now, sports betting. Tribal casinos are thought to be given preference because they have deep experience, employ high numbers of state residents, and are trusted to offer gambling in a regulated and safe manner. 

Other operators can run ‘card clubs’ which offer blackjack, baccarat, and proprietary games only. They cannot offer online gambling, including games with online live dealers.

CEO of Maverick Gaming Eric Persson said: “On behalf of our 2,200 employees and their families who live and work here in Washington State, we are profoundly disappointed that the State Senate has approved a tax-free monopoly for sports betting in Tribal casinos that is also tied to a manufactured 'emergency' to prevent a public vote.

“There is a win for all licensed gaming establishments that helps both Tribal and non-Tribal communities and lawmakers have decided not to pursue it, giving up millions of dollars in tax revenue that could support local and state priorities.”

Maverick Gaming also obtained a legal opinion from former State Senator and Washington Supreme Court Justice Philip A. Talmadge, saying there was no need to block a public vote by using an emergency clause on EHB 2638.

The executive director of the Washington Indian Gaming Association Rebecca Kaldor backed the need for tribal-run sports gambling.

In a statement, she said: “Tribal gaming is government gaming. It is much different from commercial gaming. Indian gaming funds essential services desperately needed in our communities -- education, natural resources, human services, housing, and infrastructure, just to name a few.”

Online gambling, including sports betting, will still only be open to those on tribal casino premises.

Legalized sports gambling is starting to make more of an appearance across the country after the US Supreme Court struck down a law banning it. Individual states can now choose whether they want to introduce it as a way to increase tax revenue. Michigan, for example, is taxing its new sports betting bill at 8.4%.

In Washington, however, tax revenue is not derived from tribal gaming, despite the new sports bill potentially being worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually for the casinos.

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