Washington Bills Propose Expanding Sports Betting to Card Rooms, Racetracks

While the suggestion of expanded wagering in Washington may not seem like a big thing to the casual observer, it is a sensitive subject for some in the western state.

Last Updated: Jan 27, 2023 2:37 PM ET Read Time: 2 min
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Proposed legislation in the Evergreen State would expand legal sports betting beyond tribal casinos in Washington, but already the battle lines are being drawn over the bills by familiar foes.

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

Sports-betting revenue would be subject to a 10% tax under the matching pieces of legislation, in addition to $100,000 licensing fees for facilities. Bettors would have to be 18 or older to place a wager at a card room or track, and no action would be allowed on college sports played in Washington or by a Washington state college. 

Those facilities would be able to take bets at kiosks, wagering windows, or using an app or site that only accepts action on the property of a licensed operator. 

“Each sports wagering licensee may provide no more than one branded sports wagering website, which may have an accompanying mobile application bearing the same brand as the website for an online sports pool,” the legislation says. “Any sports wagering website and mobile application must only allow wagering at that cardroom or racetrack facility.”

A sensitive subject

Both bills have made minimal progress since being introduced on Thursday and may never become law. They could, however, and it seems likely they may spark debate in the western state again over who gets to offer sports betting. 

Sports betting was legalized in Washington state in 2020 and wagering began in the retail-only market in 2021. Still, while the suggestion of expanded wagering in Washington may not seem like a big thing to the casual observer, it is a sensitive subject for some, including a tribal gaming outfit and a large card room operator. 

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

One day, maybe

“I know that our perspective on sports betting is at odds with those who prefer a monopoly for Tribal casinos, but I respect their right to advocate for their members,” Maverick Gaming CEO Eric Persson said in a press release this week. “Maverick Gaming will one day offer sports betting at its properties in our state, either following a ruling by the United States Supreme Court or an inclusive policy discussion by the state legislature that is founded in facts.” 

Yet the introduction of the sports-betting legislation has prompted pushback from the Washington Indian Gaming Association (WIGA), a non-profit group representing federally recognized tribes in the state. 

“Washington State tribes continue to strongly oppose Maverick’s gambling expansion legislation,” WIGA Executive Director Rebecca George said in a statement. “It would severely undermine Washington State’s safe and successful system of gaming and would put Washingtonians at risk, and we call on legislative leaders to once again reject it."

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