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Washington sports betting moved to the front of the line for legalization in 2020 on Wednesday.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law ESHB 2638, which allows retail sports betting only on tribal lands. Mobile sports betting in Washington is not permitted outside the grounds of tribal casinos.
A controversial emergency provision in the bill bypasses a required voter referendum, although legal trouble still looms.
The WA sports betting bill met resistance from cardrooms in the state legislature but ultimately passed easily. The Washington House voted 83-14 in favor after a 34-15 vote in the Senate.
Rebecca Kaldor, Washington Indian Gaming Association (WIGA) executive director, offered a statement on the bill Wednesday:
“We thank Governor Inslee for joining bipartisan majorities in the legislature to pass this careful and thoughtful approach to sports betting. The revenue generated by tribal gaming funds critical needs in our communities, and it enhances the lives of both tribal and nontribal Washingtonians.
“Tribal communities and governments are currently dealing with the devastating impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, with many tribal governments focusing on essential services and shutting down business activities such as casinos. As we recover from this crisis, the addition of this amenity will help tribal governments fund the essential services their members will need to get back up on their feet.”
Washington becomes the first state in 2020 to legalize sports betting. Maryland and South Dakota earlier passed bills allowing voters to weigh in on sports wagering on the November ballot.
Throughout the process of vetting the Washington sports betting bill, Maverick Gaming CEO Eric Persson maintained he will sue to stop it if passed.
At the heart of Maverick’s challenge likely will be the emergency clause, Persson told LSR last month:
“The emergency clause is something we welcome because we think it’s flawed logic and there is no emergency. We think ultimately through litigation this legislation would probably be thrown out.”
The language of the emergency provision reads:
“This act is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety, or support of the state government and its existing public institutions, and takes effect immediately.”
Persson’s company owns 19 of the state’s 44 cardrooms. Maverick supported two other bills that would have opened up sports betting Washington to cardrooms and tribes.
They also would have allowed for mobile wagering statewide.
Neither bill received a committee vote and both died.