Washington State Lawmakers Advance Sports Betting Bill

  • Legislation to legalize sports betting at tribal facilities is moving to the House floor
  • Lawmakers voted 25-7 in favor of advancing House Bill 2638 during a committee vote
  • Those opposed to the bill want sports betting to also be allowed in non-tribal facilities
state of Washington flag on the mast
Legal sports betting within Washington state’s tribal casinos could become a reality this year after lawmakers voted to advance House Bill 2638. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Another step forward

Washington state’s tribal casinos could offer legal sports betting by the end of this year after lawmakers voted to advance House Bill 2638.

The House Appropriations Committee voted 25-7 in favor of advancing House Bill 2638. A full vote on the issue will now take place in the House. With the legislative session being shorter than usual this year, this vote will need to take place before the end of the session on March 13.

House Appropriations Committee voted 25-7 in favor of advancing House Bill 2638

If this vote is successful, the accompanying Senate Bill 6394 would also need to be approved before the legislation can be put forward to Governor Jay Inslee in early spring.

Bipartisan support

One of the main sponsors for the House bill is Representative Strom Peterson. He plans to get this bill approved sooner rather than later.

Following the vote that took place on Tuesday evening, Peterson was happy that there appears to be bipartisan support for this legislation, which will make matters easier for passage.

He believes that the House floor vote will take place in the near future due to this support from both sides of the political spectrum. The plan is for the issue to be on the floor by next week.

Peterson said: “It’s a lift. … I still need to talk to a lot of people about it and make everybody comfortable with it, because it is an expansion of gambling.”

To date, no legislation looking to legalize sports betting in the state has made it this far. Traditionally, the gambling laws in the region are some of the toughest in the entire country. For any form of gambling expansion legislation to get passage, it will need to get support of at least 60% of the respective parliaments. 

Middle ground

Republican State Rep. Drew Stokesbary spoke in favor of this proposal and how it is a reasonable middle ground.

Speaking in advance of the vote, he said: “It permits adults who are responsible to engage in an activity that doesn’t harm other people. But it doesn’t make it so prevalent or so pervasive in our society that we as a legislature have to worry about the morality and ethics of that.”

What will the legislation allow?

There are currently 29 tribal casino facilities across Washington state. This legislation would allow betting on professionals and college sports, as well as the likes of esports. One exception would be no betting being allowed on college teams from the state.

There is also a part of the measure that calls for mobile betting to be allowable on the premises of the tribal facilities. Currently, any form of online betting is a Class C felony in the region. 

Concerns have been raised

Maverick Gaming LLC has been lobbying to try and get legal sports betting in the state beyond just the tribal casinos. This company currently owns 19 of the 44 card room casinos in Washington.

The likes of blackjack can be played at these facilities. It is pushing for non-tribal facilities to also be able to offer sports betting. Legislation proposing these measures did not get sufficient support at the committee level. 

the state could benefit from $50m in tax revenue every year

Maverick CEO Eric Persson says that if non-tribal facilities can offer sports betting, the state could benefit from $50m in tax revenue every year.

He also said that legislation is being pushed through too quickly and that there will not be enough enticement to state residents from continuing to use black market betting platforms. These comments were made through a letter he sent to state lawmakers on Tuesday. 

Lawmakers are concerned that full expansion of sports betting would lead to extensive underage gambling.