With all the rain that falls on the state of Washington, sports bettors are itching for a venue to lay down some wagers. But it might be multiple years before residents of The Evergreen State are legally able to bet on sports.
State legislators sponsored three bills. They would’ve allowed gambling on professional, collegiate and international sporting events. HB 1975, the one receiving the most attention, drew controversy because it would have allowed the sports betting only at tribal casinos.
Many card rooms, restaurants, and sports bars repped by trade groups were very outspoken about their businesses taking a hit.
“We believe excluding these businesses from participating in sports wagering will offer an unfair advantage to those who can,” said Zachary Lindahl, a lobbyist for the Washington Hospitality Association.
Many of the Indian tribe leaders supporting HB 1975 are in all in favor of sports gambling if limited only to their casinos. They stress that they have a proven record of offering gambling under federal and state regulation. The Indian tribes are able to give their people services because of the revenue from gambling. Those services include health care for elders and paying college tuition for younger members.
“We are now able to fulfill many of the broken promises made through history to Indian tribes for the loss of our land and our resources,” said William Iyall, chairman of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe, which operates the Ilani Casino Resort in Clark County.
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The Washington Horse Racing Commission opposed the bill. It would not allow sports betting on professional and collegiate contests at the Emerald Downs Racetrack & Casino in Auburn, WA. The Muckleshoot Indian Tribe operates the track through its firm, Emerald Downs Racing LLC. Because that setting is not on tribal land, the tribe could legally offer sports gambling at its Muckleshoot Casino on the reservation in Auburn.
There are other issues besides how much, or little, these groups will profit from the legalization of sports betting. In fact, sports betting is a very new concept to most of them. It will take time to weigh the pros and cons and doing the research needed.
If the sports betting bill does pass, the state Gambling Commission would have to negotiate contracts with the tribes under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Twenty-nine federally-recognized Indian tribes in Washington all have a gambling contract, or a compact, with the state.
The bill’s lead sponsor and Seattle Democrat, Rep. Eric Pettigrew, hopes to try and get the bill passed again next year.
Eight states currently have legalized sports betting in place. It was legalized in Indiana, Iowa and Montana this month. Tennessee is still pending governor’s action. Arkansas, New York, and Oregon are also nearing the final stages of being legalized.