Washington Legislation Takes Another Crack At Expanding Legal Sports Betting

Written By Katarina Vojvodic on January 30, 2023
Maverick Gaming pushes new bills to legalize more sports betting in Washington

After several failed attempts, Maverick Gaming proposed another bill for cardroom sports betting in Washington.

This time, the gaming company proposed two bills that would expand the availability of legal sports betting beyond tribal casinos. New bipartisan bills, House Bill 1630 and Senate Bill 5587, would authorize retail and online sportsbooks at a cardroom or racetrack.

It is the third time in three years that the state has tried to expand its sports betting opportunities beyond tribal gaming and allow some online betting.

The Washington Indian Gaming Association (WIGA) has strictly been against it. Washington has been the only US state that has given total exclusiveness to its tribes.

State law currently prohibits any form of online gambling. As it states:

“Any person who offers a sports pool or an online sports pool without a license or pursuant to a compact is guilty of a class B felony and is subject to a fine of not more than $25,000, and, in the case of a person other than a natural person, a fine of not more than $100,000.”

What will bills HB 1630 and SB 5587 make legal in Washington?

New bipartisan bills, HB 1630 and SB 5587 were introduced last week in the Evergreen State’s house.

House Bill 1630 states that sports betting would not comprise bookmaking and would not be subject to civil or criminal penalties. If approved, the sports betting licensee would allow sportsbooks to operate at a racetrack or offer business through an online operator.

These businesses would have to gain a sports betting license that costs $100,000 at issuance. Each licensee would only have a single operator and online app. But it could only allow gambling while physically within that business.

In addition, the government would apply a state tax of 10% to all bets.

HB1630 would also amend state law to additionally legalize sports boards. And any person, association, or organization can operate a sports board. However, those directly related to the sports can not place bets.

Washington Indian Gaming Association criticizes new bills

In response to the new bills, Rebecca George, Executive Director of the Washington Indian Gaming Association, issued a written rebuttal.

She stated: “Our tribal gaming system is safe, responsible, and benefits communities across Washington. The system works well and strikes the right balance.

“The option to participate in gaming activities is available to responsible adults, but through compacts, additional tribal investments, and community partnerships we have minimized the negative social consequences that can sometimes result from gambling.

“In their own words, Maverick wants to ‘bring sports betting to the mass population of Washington.’ But Washington voters and elected officials have decisively rejected previous efforts to uproot our existing system and massively expand non-tribal gaming.

“The public’s resistance to major gambling expansions in their neighborhoods and local communities remains strong.

“Washington State tribes continue to strongly oppose Maverick’s gambling expansion legislation. It would severely undermine Washington State’s safe and successful system of gaming and would put Washingtonians at risk, and we call on legislative leaders to once again reject it.”

Maverick Gaming tried to expand Washington sports betting several times

In January 2022, Maverick Gaming filed litigation in the US District Court for the District of Columbia to contest an application of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Then, in May, that litigation moved to the US District Court for the Western District of Washington.

In July 2022, Maverick Gaming filed an amended complaint with the federal district court for the western district of Washington. It tried to lobby the state government to expand legal sports betting in Washington, but so far, without success.

The Shoalwater Bay Tribe asked a federal court to dismiss the lawsuit wholesale. The Washington tribe claimed the complainant was trying to create a legal framework for sports betting in the state. And that no one would be interested.

Photo by Playin USA
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Katarina Vojvodic

Katarina Vojvodic is a lead writer for Playin USA who lives in Toronto. Vojvodic provides coverage of the US gambling industry with a focus on US online casinos. Previously, she covered Ontario?s online gambling industry for PlayCanada.com. Vojvodic holds a master?s degree in journalism from the University of Belgrade. Outside working hours, she can be found near the water with her husband and their two kids.

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