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Washington bill would extend legal betting to cardrooms


A Senate bill filed in Washington State would legalize wagering at cardrooms, racetracks, and via online platforms should it pass into law. 

Senate Bill 5212, was filed in January by Republican Senator Curtis King and his Democratic counterpart Marko Lilas. 

It subject of a hearing in the chamber’s Committee on Labor, Commerce & Tribal Affairs yesterday (4 February).

The bill aims to permit cardrooms and racetracks to offer in-person and online wagering to patrons aged 18 and above. Operators will be required to pay a $100,000 license fee, then a 10% tax on gross revenue. 

Each property would be allowed to partner a third party provider to launch a single online offering. This third party must to secure a Casino Service Industry Enterprise license. 

The scope of the online market is not initially clear. Servers must be located on the land-based licensee’s premises, and only those with in-person sportsbooks will be allowed to take bets online. 

This was highlighted by one of SB5212’s main opponents, the Washington Indian Gaming Association. 

Its executive director Rebecca George suggested that the bill would in fact permit statewide mobile betting. This would contravene the state’s strict prohibition on gambling online, she explained. 

She urged lawmakers to reject the bill, and limit the state’s sports betting market to tribal venues. This was facilitated by a bill signed into law by Governor Jay Inslee in March last year, amid vocal complaints from the state’s largest cardroom operator Maverick Gaming. 

No tribes have launched sports betting to date, though George said negotiations to amend tribal compacts were ongoing and must be completed before the first bets could be placed.

She added that while tribal gaming funded its local communities, opening the market to commercial operators would in fact take money out of the state.

“The backers of this bill aren’t here to enhance local communities,” she said. “They are here to line the pockets of Nevada companies.”

However Eric Persson, chief executive of Maverick Gaming, argued the bill would allow the operator to create 10 jobs per cardroom, and preserve existing roles at its properties. He was supported at the hearing by testimonies from employees and unions. 

The bill’s sponsor Senator King admitted that it was a contentious proposal, but added that he considered it fair. 

“Last year we gave the tribes all of the authority to do sports wagering in their casinos, which brings absolutely no revenue to the state of Washington,” he said. “We have [over 40] cardrooms that pay licenses to the state, that provide jobs, and excellent benefits to those [employees].

“This is about fairness and equity,” King continued. “The tribes have the vast majority of rights to gambling in the state. This doesn’t touch any of that – all I’m saying is we have to share the wealth here.”