Washington Bill Would Expand Sports Betting Beyond Tribal Casinos

Posted on February 4, 2021
Washington sports betting
Posted By on February 4, 2021

A bill to expand Washington sports betting beyond tribal casinos is back on the docket. 

SB 5212 was the subject of a discussion by the Washington Senate Committee on Labor, Commerce and Tribal Affairs on Thursday. 

The bill, introduced by Sen. Curtis King and pushed by Nevada-based Maverick Gaming, proposes expanding WA sports betting to cardrooms and racetracks.

Gov. Jay Inslee signed tribal-only sports betting into effect last year, but tribal casinos have yet to launch their operations.

Maverick behind the push again

With 19 of the state’s 44 cardrooms, Maverick Gaming is behind the bill, which is similar to failed efforts last year.

Two bills that would have opened sports betting to online, tribal casinos and cardrooms failed to gain traction last year. The new bill would expand to include card rooms but limit online to on-premise only.

Eric Persson, chief executive officer of Maverick Gaming, said legalized sports betting would create 10 jobs per card room and generate upwards of $50 million in revenue for state and local jurisdictions per year.

Persson also said WA sports betting would help preserve jobs. Cardrooms in Washington have declined from 140 to 44 as more tribal casinos have opened.

Tribal opposition to bill

Rebecca George, Washington Indian Gaming Association executive director, spoke in opposition to the bill. She cited the similar approach from Maverick Gaming last year and the “social harm” it would create in the state.

George also raised the issue of an out-of-state company being the major benefactor of the proposed expansion.

When asked if tribal casinos are offering sports betting yet, George said the state and tribes are finishing up government contracts.

Sports betting revenue questions

Sen. Derek Stanford brought doubts of the sports betting revenue claims, suggesting the numbers infer $10 billion in wagers annually.

“When we talk about big numbers, we are talking about revenues states and local jurisdictions,” Maverick lobbyist Vicki Christophersen said. “It’s very difficult, we have no idea what the true market looks like. We use other states to determine what the revenue would be. 

“It’s new jobs, new revenue at a time when our state and local jurisdictions need it.”

Stanford cautioned Maverick representatives to be more realistic with their projections in public comments.

Washington sports betting future

King introduced the bill to the committee by suggesting the expansion of sports betting in Washington to cardrooms is about fairness. 

“Tribes have the rights to the casinos and a vast majority of the gambling in the state and make millions every year,” King said. “This doesn’t touch any of that. It’s a new form of gambling. Let’s share the wealth here. We need to support our cardrooms scattered around this state.”

King fielded questions and concerns both prior to and during the hearing. He said they’ll look at how to best reflect them in an altered bill.

Among the requests from the Washington State Gambling Commission: Tighten the bill’s language if online betting is truly meant to be on-premise only, or so-called “Mississippi mobile.”

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Pat Evans

Pat Evans is a Las Vegas-based reporter covering sports business. Evans previously worked at Front Office Sports and the Grand Rapids Business Journal. He has authored two books: Grand Rapids Beer and Nevada Beer.

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