In 2018, the US Supreme Court scrapped a law that made sports betting illegal in most US states. In 2020, the Washington legislative session saw contradictory bills, with some favoring sports betting only in casinos on tribal lands and some favoring expansion beyond tribal lands and on to other existing card rooms and tracks. The dilemma concluded with only Native American tribes being allowed to host sports wagering. Currently, the state government is forming compact agreements with 15 Native American tribes to get the bill underway.
Tribes Forming Tentative Agreements
Tulalip, Suquamish, Kalispel, and Snoqualmie tribes were the first to reach a cautious agreement with the state. Last week, Stillaguamish, Island, Puyallup, Colville, Lummi, Muckleshoot, Swinomish, and Spokane, among others, have also reached out to sign the Suquamish agreement.
New Concerns arising from the Amendments to the Agreements
Certain Republican state lawmakers have criticized the language used in the amendments made in the agreements. They are of the opinion that the amendments appear to broaden the originally placed restrictions; thus, allowing sports betting outside actual casinos. One of the debate points refers to the meaning of the term ‘premise of gaming facilities.’
According to Julie Lies, the state Gambling Commission’s tribal liaison, the premises of the gaming facility mean the gaming facility – the gaming floor and any adjacent or joint amenities. Hence, if hotels, restaurants, entertainment spaces, parking garages, etc., within those walls could become sites for mobile bets.
On the other hand, Senator Mark Schoesler questions which places would be allowed to become sites for mobile betting – perhaps even a parking lot or a parking garage. He also argues that mobile betting from such kiosks in the gaming facility and set up a geofence appears to be an expansion or change from the decided legislation.
Republican Senator Curtis King sponsored legislation to expand sports betting to card rooms and race tracks which was eventually rejected. Maverick Gaming took the support of several bipartisan lawmakers and city officials to push for a new version of the legislation in 2021 with multiple concessions such as limiting sports betting only to existing card rooms and deleting mobile betting plans due to concern over access to children. However, the tribes opposed the new version on the basis of their virtual monopoly on gambling falling in line with the state’s desire to limit gambling footprint.
The Gambling Commission will hold a public hearing on June 10. The Commission will take a final vote after hearing and proceed to get approvals from the tribe leaders and Governor Jay Inslee. Once it has received all approvals, it will be sent to the Department of Interior for publication. Assuming everything goes smoothly, people could be able to places bets for the upcoming NFL season. However, the debate on mobile betting has the potential to stall the approval process.