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Washington State One Step Closer to Legal Sports Betting

Washington State One Step Closer to Legal Sports Betting
Donald Miralle/Getty Images for Rock'n'Roll Marathon /AFP

It has been a bit of a roller coaster toward legal sports betting in the state of Washington but the idea of wagering on your favorite teams is closer than ever. Four tribes in the state – the Tulalip, Suquamish, Snoqualmie and Kalispel have filed applications for sports betting licenses at their casinos and are just waiting on final approval. All are currently in talks with the state gambling commission on rules for integrity of betting, licensing, enforcement, and funding for problem gambling treatment.

It was March of this year that Gov. Jay Inslee passed sports betting bill HB 2638 into law, which would allow legal sports betting exclusively at the state’s tribal casinos. Only professional sports, under the law, would be eligible for betting – college sports are prohibited at this point in time. The Bill also prohibits mobile betting, which many see as a lost opportunity for both the tribes and the state.

Still, “There’s definitely excitement from the sports bettor to the operator and other companies that are involved,” said Rebecca George, director of the Washington Indian Gaming Association. “This is the first new opportunity for a gaming product in our state for quite a while.”

The Controversial Path

Despite the idea of legal sports betting for the state’s tribes only was tough to swallow for some in Washington, legislators were obviously fine with the Bill that was presented them in the spring, passing it by 83-14 in Washington’s House of Representative and 35-14 in the Senate.

Essentially, the Washington tribes got a monopoly over gambling operations in the state even though it will be regulated by the Washington State Gambling Commission. The controversial path toward legalization won’t see any non-tribal retail locations and the state won’t see any tax revenue from the operations unless the Governor can renegotiate compacts, which is very unlikely at this time.

The state’s cardrooms were also left out of the process as were any private-sector infrastructure plans for the future of the platform in the state.

Interest From Providers

There is a legal betting gold rush in the US and providers are looking to take full advantage of any opportunity presented them – both old and new. While the official launch of any legal sports betting platform is still a way off, there are already whispers about providers that have an interest in getting in on the Washington market. One possible stumbling block for prospective operators is the lack of mobile betting in the state at this time.

With a passionate fan base and soon-to-be three pro sports teams, bettors can expect to see some of the biggest service providers in the world trying to cash in. The two biggest DFS sites in the world will be under consideration – they are involved in talks in every state welcoming a legal sports betting platform. PointsBet has been one of the rapidly growing entities in the US and could open up in Washington and Fox Bet is the other major provider that has been linked to the state.

When Will We See Legal Sports Betting in Washington?

There is still some work to do in Washington before any sort of sports betting platform is launched. The coronavirus pandemic has definitely slowed any momentum down. Like many other states, the beginning of the NFL season is an optimistic goal for launch but that date is difficult to imagine.

With rules and regulations still to be decided, with service providers still having to be named and with infrastructure not to the level it needs to be, expect legal betting to take some time in Washington. It all adds up to a late-2020, early 2021 as a more logical legal sports betting launch.