Washington State Legalizes In-State Sports Betting, But Not Online

On Wednesday, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed a bill that will allow for regulated sports betting to occur in-state. Those looking forward to brick-and-mortar sportsbooks to pop up their hometown will have to wait, as the measure only allows for wagering on sports at casinos located on Native American reservations.

The language of the bill is specifically designed to allow for the state and the Native American tribes to enter into agreements that will govern sports betting inside of Washington.

“This will give people an opportunity to participate in a new gaming activity that is safe and well-regulated by the tribes.” Governor Jay Inslee

The bill easily passed both houses and was eagerly signed into law by the Governor, with the added revenue expected to supply desperately needed funds to state coffers.

Still, although the additional tax revenue will provide Washington much needed financial relief, with the Coronavirus running rampant throughout the United States, the timing seems off. All casinos in the state are closed at the moment, and no major sports are scheduled to occur any time soon.

Some opponents of more lenient gaming laws declared that restricting wagering to Native American facilities would cost the state upwards of $50 million in tax revenue annually. Eric Persson, Chief Executive of Maverick Games, is one of those opponents.

Maverick Gaming owns 19 card room facilities located across Washington state and had assumed that they would be involved in the sports betting expansion in the region.

Persson has declared that he intends to prevent this sports betting bill from becoming law by any means necessary and has $30 million set aside for the cause. Weeks back, Maverick Gaming sent Governor Inslee a letter stating that the beneficial treatment that the Tribal casinos are receiving could affect the jobs of their 2,200 employees.

“There is a win for all licensed gaming establishments that helps both Tribal and non-Tribal communities, and the Legislature decided not to pursue it, giving up millions of dollars in tax revenue that could support local and state priorities.” Eric Persson – CEO, Maverick Gaming

Even without the spread of COVID-19 throughout the United States, causing the temporary delay of all major sports leagues, betting on athletic contests is not expected to begin until several months from now. The state and the tribes have yet to negotiate their arrangement for sports betting, so it won’t start until a deal is reached between both parties.

Legal betting online in the state of Washington will have to wait because included in the sports betting bill language is a restriction on mobile or online wagering options. Until further regulations are enacted, all sports betting will take place at in-person, physical sportsbooks located inside of Tribal casinos.

Also restricted by the bill language is betting on college teams located inside the state of Washington, as well as in-state minor league baseball teams. Oregon Public Broadcasting reports that lobbyists for the state Universities made a hard push to ensure the restriction on betting on regional sports.

Washington and Connecticut are the only two states who have outlawed all forms of online betting. Those that are interested in placing a wager on the Washington Huskies, or betting on Entertainment online will have to travel to another state that doesn’t prohibit it.

Proponents of the bill cite the need to limit gaming expansion, and the exclusive Tribal casino locations can aid in that effort.