Tribes, cardrooms still on the battlefield in Washington state
Legal Sports Report

Tribal-Only Washington Sports Betting Bill Moving Forward Again

Washington sports betting

The Washington sports betting bill that would limit sportsbooks to tribal casinos took another step toward legalization Monday.

HB 2638 was referred to the Senate Ways and Means Committee after a do-pass recommendation from the Labor and Commerce Committee.

The vote was not unanimous, though, with Sen. Maureen Walsh taking a strong stand before the vote:

“I find it very disappointing that we can’t just open this up to the state. I think the state could use the infusion of revenue. I think also what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. … I think this is terrible. If the argument is the tribes can do it better, then I’m not buying it.”

Washington sports betting needs ‘small first step’

Committee Chair Karen Keiser urged support for the bill, which does not allow the state’s 44 cardrooms to offer sports betting in Washington:

“I urge support for this bill before us. I am not a great fan of either gambling or sports. It seems to me, especially when it comes to gambling, we have a couple of things to deal with: the threat of addiction and the threat of corruption. And I think it’s very wise of us to take a very small first step in moving forward with the ability to have sports gambling.”

HB 2638 also limits online sports betting to bettors physically located on tribal land.

Bills that would have legalized open WA sports betting for both tribes and commercial operators died in committee.

WA sports wagering destined for court?

If HB 2638 is passed before the end of Washington’s shortened session on March 12, it likely won’t be the end.

An amendment that would have the bill go into effect immediately and skip a referendum means it likely will face a court challenge, Maverick Gaming CEO Eric Persson said.

Maverick has a vested interest in opening up Washington sports betting with its 19 cardrooms in the state. The company’s stance is backed up with a Maverick-funded opinion from former Washington Supreme Court Justice Phil Talmadge.

Persson said he will “of course” take the issue to courts if the bill passes.

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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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