Washington Bills propose expanding sports betting to card rooms and racetracks

While the suggestion of an expansion in Washington betting may not seem like a big deal to the casual observer, it is a touchy subject for some in the western state.

Last Updated: Jan 27, 2023 2:37 PM ET
Reading time: 2 minutes

Proposed legislation in the Evergreen State would expand legal sports betting beyond Washington’s tribal casinos, but the battle lines are already being drawn across the bills by known enemies.

Sports betting in Washington state is currently limited to several tribal gambling establishments such as the Emerald Queen Hotel and Casino in Tacoma. However, recently introduced House Bill 1630 and Senate Bill 5587 would allow retail and online sports betting sites in a card room or racetrack.

Sports betting revenue would be subject to a 10% tax under the relevant laws, in addition to the $100,000 facility royalties. Bettors would have to be 18 years or older to place a bet in a card room or lane and no action would be allowed on collegiate sports played in Washington or by a Washington State college.

These establishments could accept bets at kiosks, betting windows, or through an app or website that only accepts promotions on a licensed operator’s property.

“Each sports betting licensee may not provide more than one sports betting branded website, which may have an accompanying mobile application bearing the same branding as the website for an online sports pool,” the legislation reads. “Each sports betting site and mobile application must only allow betting in that cardroom or racecourse facility.”

A sensitive subject

Both bills have made minimal progress since their introduction on Thursday and may never become law. However, they could, and it seems likely, will spark renewed debate in the western state over who gets to offer sports betting.

Sports betting was legalized in Washington state in 2020 and betting started in the retail market in 2021. Though the suggestion of an expansion in Washington betting doesn’t seem like a big deal to the casual observer, it’s a touchy subject for some, including a tribal gaming outfit and a major card room operator.

A federal lawsuit was filed last year by Maverick Gaming LLC, which owns 22 card rooms in Washington, and aims to void contracts that allow sports betting at tribal casinos. Maverick has worked to expand sports betting in the state and supports legislation introduced this week.

Maybe one day

“I know our view of sports betting is at odds with those who favor a monopoly for tribal casinos, but I respect their right to speak up for their members,” Maverick Gaming CEO Eric Persson said in an this week press release. “Maverick Gaming will one day offer sports betting on its properties in our state, either following a ruling by the United States Supreme Court or following an informed, inclusive political discussion by the state legislature.”

However, the introduction of sports betting legislation has drawn opposition from the Washington Indian Gaming Association (WIGA), a non-profit group representing state-recognized tribes in the state.

“Washington state tribes remain strongly opposed to Maverick’s gambling expansion bill,” WIGA executive director Rebecca George said in a statement. “It would seriously undermine Washington State’s safe and prosperous gaming system and endanger Washingtonians, and we urge legislative leaders to oppose it again.”

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