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Washington tribal betting bill heads to Governor


A bill to legalize sports betting at tribal gaming venues in Washington State is headed to Governor Jay Inslee after the House of Representatives passed the amended version returned by the Senate on Saturday (March 7).

House Bill 2638, which authorizes in-person sports betting at tribal gaming facilities, was voted through by 83 Representatives, with just 14 opposing the bill. 

This followed its passage through the Senate, by a 34-15 margin, on March 5. As a result of two amendments adopted in that chamber – to allocate $6m from the state General Fund for use in combating illegal betting, and to prohibit wagering on minor league sports – it was returned to the House for concurrence.

It will allow tribal gaming operators to amend their state compacts to launch betting as a form of Class III gaming. This could see betting launched at the state’s 35 tribal casinos, while shutting out Washington’s cardrooms from the vertical – something that has been attacked by their operators. 

During the public hearings conducted as part of the bill’s passage through the legislature, one dissenter warned that gifting the tribes legal betting would cost jobs at the cardrooms.

Maverick Gaming, which operates 19 licensed cardrooms throughout Washington, has been the most vocal opponent of the legislation, instead backing House Bill HB 2478 and its Senate companion bill, SB6277. 

This would have legalized betting at tribal casinos, racetracks, and licensed card rooms. That bill has seen progress stall after being referred to the Committee on Commerce and Gaming, with the legislative session due to end on March 12. 

Maverick’s chief executive Eric Persson said he was prepared to fight the bill in a bid to protect his business.

“We’re prepared to spend $20-$30 million this election cycle to protect our 2,200 employees in the state and bring this matter to the attention of all Washingtonians to educate them about what’s gone on,” Persson told The Seattle Times last week.

“Nothing’s off the table. We’ll do everything we can. Litigation, lobbying, TV ads, whatever it takes to get the message out there.”