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Washington Officially Legalizes Sports Betting

The state of Washington officially became the first state to legalize sports betting on Wednesday night when Governor Jay Inslee signed law ESHB 2638 into law. Even though sports betting is now legal throughout the state, there are a few stipulations that will keep the sports betting industry from really taking off.

Retail sports betting will be legalized at tribal casinos throughout the state of Washington. Mobile sports betting is allowed as a part of this bill, but all the bets must be placed on tribal land.

This puts a major damper on sports bettors who do not live close to the tribal lands.

There was some controversy surrounding this bill at the onset, but eventually, almost all of the lawmakers supported the measure. The bill was passed by the House by a vote of 83-14, and a 34-15 vote in the Senate sent the bill to Governor Inslee’s desk to be signed.

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One of the major question marks surrounding this bill was whether or not voters across the state of Washington would have to pass the bill as well. The final law included an emergency provision that bypassed the need for the issue to be a referendum to be voted on.

Another major issue that was debated throughout the process was what betting markets would be authorized. The sports betting law allows for bets to be placed on all professional and collegiate sporting events.

The only restriction is that bets cannot be placed on games featuring in-state collegiate teams.

There are currently 29 tribes in the state of Washington, and each tribe must negotiate their own compacts with the state before they can begin offering bets. All of the tribal casinos are currently shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, and it is unclear when these negotiations will start to take place.

Washington is now the 21st state in the United States with legalized sports betting. Other states are also awaiting launch, but there is hope that Washington will be able to launch before the end of 2020.

Tribes in Washington will also need to form a partnership with sports betting companies to run their sportsbooks.

By limiting sports betting on tribal lands, the state of Washington is missing out on a large chunk of potential tax revenue. Financial experts had estimated that the state could generate close to $50 million per year if they opened up the sports betting industry to other casinos and card rooms throughout the state.

The state will bring in some revenue through their gaming compacts that they form with the tribes, but the figures will not come close to $50 million.

Maverick Gaming Threatening Lawsuit

Even though it appears that sports betting is coming to the state of Washington, a lawsuit might stop the law before it ever gets going. Eric Persson, Maverick Gaming Chief Executive Officer, maintained throughout the entire lawmaking process that he would sue the state if a law were passed.

The reason that Persson is threatening to sue the state is that card rooms have been shut out of the sports betting law. Maverick Gaming owns and operates almost half of the 44 card rooms in the state of Washington.

Persson and Maverick Gaming supported a pair of sports betting bills in the state, but they weren’t the ones that ultimately got passed. Maverick Gaming was in support of both tribal casinos and card rooms being able to offer sports betting. They also wanted mobile wagering to be legalized throughout the state.

It is unclear if or when Persson and Maverick Gaming will file a lawsuit.

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