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Legal Sports Report

What Are The Prospects For New Washington Sports Betting Bills?

Washington sports betting

An initiative to get Washington sports betting is underway in the legislature but one man behind the bill doesn’t expect passage this year.

The state of Washington has a shortened session this year with just 60 days to get a lot of work done. Given it’s an election year, Gov. Jay Inslee likely has bigger things to accomplish than WA sports betting, Eric Persson, CEO of Maverick Gaming, said.

It’s more likely Washington sports betting will get its chance next year in a longer session. Getting a bill filed was still important this year, Persson said, to start circulating the idea of sports betting and find who supports it.

“There’s clearly consumer demand,” Persson said.

Washington sports betting bill details

The two bills, SB 6277 and HB 2478, were referred to committee but have no hearing dates set. The bills have Republican support with Sens. Curtis King and Ann Rivers sponsoring SB 6277 and Rep. Brandon Vick sponsoring HB 2478.

The proposal has a lot of positives. Every operator of a card room, tribal casino and race track in the state would have one license, or skin, to sign an agreement with a sportsbook operator.

That creates a lot of potential sports betting licenses – 44, in fact. There are 21 tribes that operate 29 casinos, 21 operators for the 44 card rooms, and two racetracks. Maverick by far owns the most properties with 19 of those card rooms.

Sports betting revenue would be taxed at 10% with a $500,000 initial license fee. Tax revenue could hit about $50 million annually, Persson said.

Limited collegiate betting in WA sports betting

The biggest downside is what would not be allowed: the proposal would put the clamps on college betting with local appeal.

First, there would be no betting at all on teams from within Washington state. That means betting on any March Madness runs by Gonzaga, or bowl games for the University of Washington or Washington State University, is not allowed.

But the collegiate ban doesn’t end there.

The proposal would also ban betting on any collegiate event that takes place within the state of Washington. That could lead to some big events not available for betting.

Take this year, for example. If this law were live in Washington already, there would be no betting on the March Madness first- or second-round games held in Spokane.

Ban idea comes from polled support

There’s a simple reason for the bans, Persson said. There was a lot of internal polling to find the likeliest path to success for Washington sports betting.

The bill that would generate the broadest base of support was one that included those collegiate bans, he said. Persson was quick to point out Nevada started the same way and didn’t reverse the ban until 2001.

Tribal sports betting bill introduced too

Persson included the tribes in the proposal to make sure the bill was as inclusive as possible for the best support as possible. But tribes have their own plan.

SB 6394 and HB 2638 would only let gaming tribes operate WA sports betting at their casinos. Mobile would be allowed but only while on tribal land.

The biggest upside to the tribal initiative is that it does not include any of the collegiate betting bans as the commercial bill would.

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- Matthew Waters is a reporter covering legal sports betting and the gambling industry. Previous stops include Fantini Research and various freelance jobs covering professional and amateur sports in Delaware and the Philadelphia area.
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