Sports Betting Coming to Washington as Tribal Compacts Get Federal Approval

  • The DOI has approved updated sports betting compacts with nine Washington tribes this week
  • Casinos can now prepare for launch, with operators hoping to go live in time for the NFL season
  • There are still a number of steps tribal casinos need to complete, including partnering providers
  • Mobile betting will also launch in the state, with casinos to pick commercial sportsbook partners
Washington road sign
The DOI has approved nine updated tribal gaming compacts in the state of Washington, paving the way for casinos to offer sports betting in time for the beginning of the NFL season. [Image:]

Crossing the final hurdle

Residents in the state of Washington will soon have the option to legally wager on their favorite sports teams. Tribal gaming compact amendments have received federal approval this week, meaning casinos could start offering sports betting in time for the beginning of the NFL season.

includes agreements with nine tribes

As reported by The Seattle Times, the US Department of the Interior (DOI) green lit some of the state’s compact amendments on Wednesday this week. This includes agreements with nine tribes, namely the Puyallup, Tulalip, Snoqualmie, Spokane, Cowlitz, Squaxin, Suquamish, Stillaguamish, and Lummi.

Washington became the first state to legalize retail and mobile sports wagering in 2020 when Governor Jay Inslee signed ESHB 2638 into law. The governor subsequently agreed to the updated compacts – the first of which he signed in July this year – to pave the way for tribes to begin offering betting.

The race to launch is on

Since the approval of tribal gambling compacts in July, Washington’s betting backers have expressed hope that the market might launch in time for the NFL season. Now that some tribes have received the nod from the DOI, that might just be a possibility. However, there are still a number of steps that tribes need to take in order to prepare for launch, including the finalizing of partnerships with sportsbook providers.

As reported by The Seattle Times, Washington Indian Gaming Association executive director Rebecca George has refused to reveal an exact time frame for the launch. Speaking after the news of Wednesday’s approval, she confirmed that tribal casinos could begin offering betting “in the next few months.” She said this depends on how quickly casinos implement the needed measures.

That said, casino operators themselves are hopeful that they can open sportsbooks in time for the NFL season on September 9. In an email sent after Wednesday’s announcement, Stanford Le, president and CEO of the Snoqualmie Casino, described the gambling venue as “currently on track” to go live in time for the first game.

Some tribal organizations may be waiting a little longer to implement sports betting however. Seven of the tribes with updated compact amendments are still awaiting approval from the DOI. This includes the Muckleshoot, Swinomish, Skokomish, Kalispel, Jamestown S’Klallam, Shoalwater Bay, and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation.

Mobile betting also inbound

While ESHB 2638 only allows tribal casinos to offer retail betting in Washington, the tribes can partner with commercial operators to launch mobile wagering. With its population of more than 7.6 million, Washington is understandably a highly-coveted state for sports betting operators. However, they can only offer internet betting within the grounds of a tribal partner’s casinos.

several gambling giants expressed an interest in the market

After agreeing on betting regulations, the Washington State Gambling Commission (WSGC) first opened the application period for licenses in July this year. Immediately, several gambling giants expressed an interest in the market, with FanDuel, DraftKings, Caesars Sportsbook, BetMGM, Rush Street Interactive, and Betfred all filling out pre-license applications.

In July, gaming supplier IGT announced that it will power the Snoqualmie Casino’s retail and on-premise mobile sportsbooks. According to the company, it has been constructing the sportsbook since the start of June with the aim of launching as soon as the tribe’s compact received the green light.

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