Another Hole In PASPA: One Type Of Sports Betting Is Legal In Washington State

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Hole in PASPA sports betting

You can add another state not named Nevada, Delaware, Oregon or Montana to the growing list of jurisdictions at least partially exempt from the loophole-filled federal sports betting ban in the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA).

Enter Washington State.

According to a regulator earlier this month, a narrow category of “regulated sports pools” are permitted by law in the state.

Backdrop of PASPA revelations

The Washington State Gambling Commission (WSGC) — the Evergreen State’s law enforcer with jurisdiction over sports betting — recently announced four arrests in connection with an illegal soccer gambling network.

“Sports betting may be a hot topic right now, but regulated sports pools are currently the only legal form of sports betting in Washington State,” said WSGC director Dave Trujillo in a press release dated May 3. “This ring was a criminal organization and we will continue to protect the public by dismantling similar operations.”

In a follow-up interview, another WSGC official elaborated on the type of ‘regulated sports pools’ that are permitted by law in the state.

“100-square boards were authorized by the state legislature in 1973 with the Gambling Act,” wrote WSGC public information officer Heather Songer in an email to Legal Sports Report. “Therefore, they were essentially grandfathered-in when PASPA was passed in 1992.

“These boards are often seen in bars during football season.”

What are the Sports Boards in Washington state?

In the online space, Washington State has some of the strictest anti-gambling laws in the nation, with certain activity constituting a felony. Daily fantasy sports sites like DraftKings and FanDuel don’t operate there, for instance.

Washington State also has narrowly-tailored laws that permit sports betting.

The 100-square boards harken back to sports betting’s pre-digital era, with certain aspects decidedly quaint.

“A board or piece of paper is divided into one hundred equal squares, each of which constitutes a chance to win in the sports pool and each of which is offered directly to prospective contestants at one dollar or less” is one of the law’s old-fashioned requirements.

The statute also requires the buyer of a single square on the board to have a pen or pencil handy.

“The purchaser of each chance or square signs his or her name on the face of each square or chance he or she purchases” mandates the law.

So much for in-game betting with e-currency via a smartphone app in Seattle.

PASPA is a sieve

The US Supreme Court continues to deliberate the fate of PASPA in the long-running New Jersey sports betting case.

Whether PASPA’s sieve-like gaps in Washington State — as well as New Mexico, Wyoming, Arizona and both Dakotas — will matter to the Supreme Court is unknown. In deciding the pending case, however, the Supreme Court will undoubtedly probe PASPA’s text when interpreting the law vis-à-vis the US Constitution.

PASPA’s exemptions (see §3704) do not mention any state by name. Not even Nevada.

Such wordsmithing is but one example of why deciphering PASPA has proven to be so thorny for the past six years. PASPA’s hard-to-understand text could also be contributing to the longer-than-normal time in which the Supreme Court has been deliberating over the case since oral arguments were held on Dec. 4.

A decision in the Supreme Court sports betting case could come as early as May 14 or as late as the end of June.