Sports Betting Bill Introduced in Washington State

Washington State Capitol Building

30-second summary

  • House Bill 1975 would legalize college and professional sports betting at tribal gaming venues
  • Online sports betting would also be legalized at the same locations
  • If passed into law, the change would be significant because Washington is the only state where online gambling is a Class C felony

Hearings will be held in Washington State on House Bill 1975, which calls for the legalization of college and professional sports wagering. Eight lawmakers are sponsoring the bill, including Majority Caucus Chair Eric Pettigrew.

Tribal gaming venues would be permitted to offer land-based services. Online gambling would also be allowed but restricted to the physical boundary of the gaming venue.

House Bill 1975

Just recently introduced, House Bill 1975 would legalize sports betting in Washington State after it has been banned for decades. The bill is seemingly limited because it calls for legalization of both online and land-based gambling at tribal facilities. However, according to lawmakers, the limits are not big and could lead the way to increased offerings.

Washington State Gambling Commission member Chris Steams said: “The limits are actually not very big. The bill doesn’t say very much, but the way federal Indian gaming law works is, just as long as the state permits something, it opens the door for the tribes to operate based on what they negotiate. So, it may look limited, but it just opens the door to what the tribes can negotiate with the governor.”

Steams stated further that negotiations would most likely take up to two years to finish if the bill is passed into law. Tribes will have to negotiate to offer the option before being allowed to move forward.

Limitations

House Bill 1975 limits sports wagering within the tribal facilities. The bill follows a long-standing policy of the state to ban gambling except where it is specifically authorized and regulations have been established. The bill sets up wagering for players in several ways. Bets could be placed via mobile phone, a teller at the facility, or a kiosk. However, betting can only be conducted on-site, within the facility.

Because of this restriction, tribes would have to set up geolocation technology with GPS or similar technology and placed around the property. Only a customer within the area would be eligible to place sports bets.

Mobile wagering is likely to be big business in the sports betting sector because players want to take their gaming on the go. However, states have been slow to authorize full-service online/mobile wagering due to concerns about underage gambling.

While the tribal gaming venues of Washington would be offering restricted mobile wagering, it would open the door for expansion in the future. Right now, the bill is a major step forward for the state. Washington is the only state in the US that currently has any form of online gambling listed as a Class C felony.

House Bill 1975 is scheduled to be heard Thursday morning by the House Committee on Commerce and Gaming.