In a vote that expands gambling in the Evergreen State beyond any other moves in more than a decade of legislative change, the Washington State Senate recently approved an emergency bill authorizing sports betting in the Washington State’s Native American tribal casinos.
Sports gambling had long been illegal in Washington and almost everywhere else nationwide until a game-shifting day in May 2018, when the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018 quashed a federal law that had been banning sports betting in all but a few grandfathered jurisdictions, leaving it to individual states to now decide their own course.
Many states like New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Tennessee, Indiana and Rhode Island have already opted for legal sports betting, and it’s refreshing to see Washington joining the party.
How the Sports Betting vote was won & how it applies
The 34-15 vote on EHB 2638 in the State Senate followed two hours of sometimes testy and terse debate over the legalization of what some in opposition have coined ‘an untaxed tribal monopoly’, hiding behind an emergency clause shielding EHB 2638 from any potential of a statewide referendum.
However, that said, sports betting’s legalization in Washington does come with its limits.
Unlike its southern neighbor, Oregon, Washington will not permit online or mobile betting options, other than online sports betting while on the property of tribal casinos. Lawmakers have also decided to limit sports betting on the premises of tribal casinos only, for the time being at least.
Naturally, not everyone in the Evergreen state’s gambling industry are happy. Washington’s vast commercial card-room casino industry has complained bitterly that the bill has cut them out of the sports betting process and a slice of the projected $50 million annual state-tax revenue pie.
Just a First Sports Betting step – Online Betting may follow
It’s not all bad news. Many of those favoring the bill say it’s a measured first step and an extension of the law (potentially including online sports betting) will be possible in time.
Immediately following the vote, W. Ron Allen, the Chief Executive Officer of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, 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.”
It was a sentiment backing-up the comments of Senator Karen Keiser just before the vote on the floor:
“That is why it is so wise for our state to take a very small step and work with our trusted partners in the tribes who have shown their ability to contain problems.”
When will Sports Betting begin in Washington State & which sports will you be able to bet on?
Now that Governor Jay Inslee has signed EH 2638 into law, it will likely take months after that for legal sports gaming to happen and get going in full-swing because the state must first negotiate a new compact with tribes.
A wide range of sporting events are expected to be included in Washington State’s sports betting options, including college sports, professional sports like NBA, NFL & NHL, Olympic and World Cup competitions, overseas leagues, and popular video game tournaments, otherwise known as eSports.
It’s a promising selection, however, it may be some time before we know for sure, given the current widespread shutdown of athletic events.
However, it could be a blessing in disguise, as it gives the Tribal Casinos more time to negotiate the necessary regulatory agreements with the state and get the small details of sports betting right before its Washington launch.