Last updated: June 1, 2020
Status: In 2019, legislators introduced three bills to allow gambling on professional and college sports, as well as international contests such as the Olympics and the UEFA Champions League. However, disputes between lobbyists and tribal casino owners meant none of the bills came close to progressing.
ETA: With the current impasse between affected parties, it could be several years before any agreement on sports betting is reached.
The most heavily debated of all the bills introduced in 2019 was HB 1975. It proposed to allow Vegas-style betting on sports in tribal casinos. However, groups representing other businesses voiced their concerns about the unfair advantage being handed to the tribes.
Unsurprisingly, the leaders of the state’s Indian tribes were in favour of the controversial bill as it falls in line with their current arrangements for offering gambling services according to federal and state regulations. Casino revenue is important to the tribes as it allows them to offer services to their people, including education and health care.
The Washington Horse Racing Commission also voted to oppose the bill as it did not permit sports betting at the Emerald Downs Racetrack & Casino in Auburn, currently run by the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe.
As well as disputes over who would benefit from gambling revenue, there were also concerns over the impact and feasibility of sports betting. Further discussions and studies may need to take place before the process can move any further forward. Those discussions may not take place until 2021, when the next 105-day session is held. In the meantime, Washington will be keeping an eye on what happens in the other states where sports betting is allowed.
Any agreement would require the state to renegotiate all of the 29 contracts in place with the federally recognized Indian tribes in Washington State. The prospect of receiving no revenue at all if sports betting is not legalized may prompt some kind of compromise from the tribal groups.
Gambling in Washington was declared illegal in 1889 and charitable gaming was also outlawed ten years later. Horse racing books were banned in 1909, but a law was passed to legalize pari-mutuel betting in 1933.
In 1937, the state permitted the use of slot machine in private clubs and for non-profit purposes, but the Supreme Court reversed the ruling regarding charitable slot machines in 1952.
Later, in the 1970s, bingo, lottery and raffle games were legalized. This prompted the creation of the Washington Gambling Commission. The Gambling Act was passed and pool-style betting on major sports events was given the green light. In 1982, the State Lottery was launched.
Tribal groups began offering bingo games on their reservations in the mid-80s and off-track horse race betting was permitted in 1987. The 1990s saw the opening of the first tribal casinos.
Sports betting via a pool system is legal in Washington but sportsbooks are still not permitted.
No one currently controls sports gambling in Washington. However, all future sports betting activities in the state are set to be controlled by the Washington Gambling Commission.
If sports betting becomes legal in Washington, it is expected that an age limit of 18 will be set.
You cannot legally bet on sports books in Washington. However, there is a limited amount of sports pool betting.
As sports books are still technically illegal, there are no operators or licensees in the state of Washington. Any future licenses will be issued by the Washington Gambling Commission. The state’s tribal groups are expected to be included as license holders.
No operators offer legal sports betting in the state.
Currently, no. It is not clear if any future sports betting laws will allow any form of online betting.
It is not clear how much legal sports betting would be worth in Washington, but the figure could run into millions.
A full review will have to be carried out before a tax rate is agreed upon.
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