Washington State Sports Gambling Bill Passes Full House Vote

  • Thursday night's Washington state House floor vote showed overwhelming bill approval
  • If passed into law, HB-2638 would enable sports gambling through tribal casinos
  • Maverick Gaming is challenging bill for an extension that would include additional card rooms
  • SB-6394 awaits Senate vote on companion bill before it can reach Gov. Inslee's desk by spring
US Capitol Building in Washington DC
Washington state’s House floor vote in favor of HB-2638 could see the sports gambling bill signed into law by this spring. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Tribal casinos given green light

A Washington state House floor vote held Thursday night approved a sports gambling bill that would allow tribal casinos in the state to offer sports betting for the first time.

The House approved bill HB-2638 by 83-14 after a hastily arranged hearing to complete the vote by a March 13 deadline.

Worries over momentum

The latest vote took place to ensure the safe passage of the bill, which could see Governor Jay Inslee implement its legislation by springtime.

There were worries that momentum would slow down after Maverick Gaming LLC opposed the proposed measure. As this year is already a shortened session for both the House and Senate, additional delays could have hindered the bill from advancing further.

The Nevada-based operator wanted to extend the current bill to include card rooms outside the current remit. The company owns card rooms in the state that would have benefited from such an extension.

Sponsor Representative Peterson was keen to get the floor to sit after a House Appropriations Committee agreed it could pass forward just 48 hours earlier. An accompanying emergency amendment prevented the vote from being subjected to a statewide referendum.

A vote on companion Senate bill SB-6394 will need to take place before the March 13 deadline for HB-2638 to advance to Gov. Inslee’s desk.

“A good middle path”

Following the nighttime hearing, Representative Peterson said he was incredibly proud of the strong, bipartisan vote attained. He added:

We have found a good middle path that supports our tribal partners, allows adults to safely access sports betting and protects our youth.”

Legal opinion sought on emergency amendment

Maverick Gaming has since released a legal opinion it had sought from former State Senator and Washington Supreme Court Judge Philip A. Talmadge on the emergency amendment.

Talmadge saw no need to rush either bill HB-2638 or SB-6394. He concluded that this did not constitute an “emergency” for the state as there would be no direct tax revenue derived from the tribal casinos. He also stated there was no immediate threat to “public peace, health or safety” to warrant the amendment.

While there are 29 current tribal casinos that fall within the state and would benefit from the bill, there still are 44 card rooms in the state that would not be allowed to profit at all. Maverick currently own 19 of them.

The proposed bill also limits online gambling activities to take place within tribal casinos. Currently, online betting in Washington state is down as a Class C felony.

SB-6394 now awaits the Senate’s decision on the companion bill before it can reach Gov. Inslee’s desk.

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