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Washington State Approves Tribal Sports Betting Pact

Washington’s gaming control board approves of state’s plans to allow sports betting at tribal casinos
16 tribes have been given the green light to allow sports betting as soon as plans are approved by the US Department of the Interior
Non-tribal casinos are expected to argue in favor of an expanded industry in the next legislative session

While legalized sports betting has continued to make its way across the United States, the west coast has been largely slow to adapt. Arizona is the only state in the Pacific Time Zone that has made noteworthy steps toward legalization in recent months. Nevada has dominated the market for decades, but nearby states like California, Oregon, and Washington have slow-footed legalization efforts.

However, Washington appears to be trending in that direction. On Thursday, Governor Jay Inslee approved agreements between the state and 15 Native American tribes that will allow those tribes to offer legal sports betting at their casino properties.

Law Has Been In Place Since March 2020

This has been a long time coming. Inslee actually signed a bill into law back in March of 2020 that made it legal for tribes to offer sports betting at casinos. However, every tribe wishing to do so first had to get approval on an agreement with the state before they could officially open their doors to sports betting.

On Thursday, Inslee signed the approval on the applications from the Colville, Shoalwater Bay, Spokane, Kalispel, Jamestown S’Klallam, Cowlitz, Stillaguamish, Suquamish, Tulalip, Squaxin Island, Puyallup, Muckleshoot, Lummi, and Swinomish tribes. The Skokomish Lucky Dog Casino became the 16th to gain approval from the state’s gambling commission on Friday.

Inslee said, “This will give people the opportunity to participate in a new gaming activity that is safe and well regulated by the tribes.”

Now that the governor has signed off on the plans, the US Secretary of the Interior will need to do the same before the casinos can officially begin to accept legal sports wagers. The tribes and state’s gambling commission are both optimistic that the Department of the Interior will give the green light before the beginning of the upcoming NFL season, which is typically peak season for sports betting in the United States.

The Emerald Queen Casino (Tacoma) and Puyallup Tribe have both already built sportsbooks that are ready to be used immediately. They’re simply waiting for the plans to get final approval before they open their doors.

What About Non-Tribal Casinos?

While opening sports betting to tribal casinos is one step in the right direction, there are many within the industry that hope Washington will eventually open an industry for non-tribal operators, too. Eric Persson of Maverick Gaming told KOMO news, “This is one of these things where it’s a win-win. And I’m glad the tribal gaming is getting it. Commercial gaming needs it as well.”

Some local lawmakers agree that other non-tribal casinos and cardrooms should get a piece of the pie, as well. Back in February of 2020, right before the tribal plan was signed into law by the governor, state Senator Curtis King said, “The tribes will share in it, but I think our cardrooms and our employees within those cardrooms and the state of Washington should benefit from sports wagering.”

Non-tribal casinos are set to argue in favor of their own inclusion into a sports betting compact at the next legislative session. DraftKings, FanDuel, and other major operators are expected to join local non-tribal casinos in arguing for a more expansive industry in Washington.