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Washington State legalizes sports betting for tribal gaming operations

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee signed a measure allowing regulated sports betting at tribal gaming operations within the state. The measure is a big win for the state’s Native American-run casinos but it’s also a bit bittersweet as there are virtually no professional or college sports to wager on and no one really knows when they’ll be back.

HB 2638 was a controversial bill as it grants tribal gaming interests a virtual monopoly on regulated sports betting in the state. That’s a component of the bill that didn’t sit well with other state-wide gambling interests such as the Nevada-based Maverick Gaming, which operates a series of card rooms in the state. Maverick officials, and their lobbyists, wanted the measure subjected to a state-wide referendum. They further argued that the state was shorting itself nearly $50 million a year in tax revenue by not allowing sports betting at their 46 card rooms.

Tribal gaming interests were, of course, thrilled by the move and say that it couldn’t have come at a better time. In a statement reported on by the Seattle Times, Rebecca Kaldor, executive director of the Washington Indian Gaming Association explained the situation saying, “It feels timely that everything we’ve been saying is funded by our (tribal) government gaming is now in jeopardy (due to the corona virus crisis). And so, the silver lining is that this will be an added amenity tribes can use to get our communities back up and running in a healthy way.”

Maverick CEO Eric Persson countered that thought saying, “The issue of sports betting is not just about commercial gaming and the sovereign rights of Tribal governments, for which I have deep respect. It is about how to create economic opportunities for all Washingtonians in Tribal and non-Tribal communities alike.”

Persson says he may yet file a lawsuit in an attempt to block the law but until he does, Native American tribes in Washington are cleared to offer sports betting…as soon as there are sports to bet on again.