Washington’s Governor Jay Inslee has signed off on a bill that will legalise sports betting at tribal gambling facilities in the state.
House Bill 2638 authorizes in-person sports betting at tribal casinos, as well as on-premises mobile wagering.
Confirmation of Inslee’s signature means that Washington becomes the first US state to legalise sports betting in 2020.
Washington’s House of Representative cleared the bill by a vote of 83-14 earlier this month, while the state’s Senate voted 34-15 in favour of the bill on March 5.
Key measures in the bill include players being able to wager on any professional sports or athletics event, collegiate sports, the Olympic Games and other global competitions. Betting on minor league sports will not be permitted.
The Washington State Gambling Commission will be responsible for regulating the market, including awarding licenses to operators.
However, the bill has not come without its critics, with Maverick Gaming, which operates 19 licensed cardrooms across Washington, a vocal opponent of the legislation.
Maverick’s chief executive Eric Persson previously said he would be prepared to fight the bill in a bid to protect his business, aiming to remove an emergency clause from the bill that would mean it has to go to a public referendum.
However, Brendan Bussmann of Global Market Advisors told iGB North America that the cardroom industry faces a major challenge in fighting the legislation.
He said that with cardrooms a fairly new entrant to the market, it always was destined to struggle against tribal operators, which have built up more than 20 years of strong relations with the state.
“I would say from a lobbying perspective, looking at what Maverick tried to do, they did about everything wrong that they could and still will going forward, to be blunt,” Bussmann explained.
“[Maverick’s] messaging has been conflicted, saying ‘give us sports betting and we’ll invest $20-$30m in the state, because if you don’t we’ll go out of business’. There’s been mixed messages along the way.”