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Legal Sports Betting In Washington

Hasan Nabulsi
Seattle Seahawks

Sports betting in Washington became legal on March 26, 2020, despite heavy opposition by the state’s cardrooms. Governor Jay Inslee signed off a bill that allow for tribal casinos to offer regulated sports betting inside their casinos.

There is still much work to be done, however. 

The state will need to publish the official rules for legal sports betting in Washington and negotiate a sports gaming compact with each of the tribes that decides to open a sportsbook at one of their locations.

The tribes themselves will also likely have to partner with a sports betting operator. Finally, the tribes will have to renovate their existing locations in order to find space to fit a sports gambling lounge of some sort.

When all of that is said and done, the Evergreen State is expected to wager $2.8 billion each year on sports.

Washington Sports Betting Timeline

2019 – The sports betting push in Washington began in February of 2019 when HB 1975 was introduced in the state House Committee of Commerce & Gaming. The bill aimed to have tribal casinos in charge of running the state’s sportsbooks. 

The bill was sent to the Appropriations committee that same month but ultimately stopped gaining any traction and died in committee when the legislature adjourned in April. 

Washington State Gambling CommissionFast forward to August of 2019 and the Washington State Gambling Commission began conducting hearings to get a further understanding of how to expand the state’s gambling industry. Members of the Seattle Mariners, the MLB and others made their pitches then.

The Commission met once a month, hearing from various stakeholders in the legal sports betting industry until finally, they put together a comprehensive study in December of 2019. That study was to be used to formulate a bill in 2020.

2020 – Legislative action on sports betting started early in 2020 with HB 2638 being introduced on January 16th. That bill was introduced in the House and a companion bill in the Senate, SB 6394 was introduced on the same day. 

WA HB 2638But, it was ultimately the House bill that garnered the most traction. The legislative session on even-numbered years is shorter than odd-numbered years so the bill had to move swiftly. 

The bill was marked with emergency status and would give tribal casinos exclusive rights to Washington sportsbooks. This would allow the legislature to bypass the need for a voter referendum to amend the state constitution.

HB 2638 was passed through the House a little after a month of it being introduced on February 13 with 83 yeas and 14 nays. It then passed through the Senate on March 5 with 34 yeas and 15 nays. 

It went back to the House and was signed off by the House speaker on March 9th.

Once that happened, the bill went to Governor Jay Inslee. With COVID-19 suspending legislative sessions around the country, many worried that the bill wouldn’t get signed in time.

But, sports bettors were treated on March 26 when Governor Inslee signed off on the measure, legalizing sports betting in Washington.

2021 – The year began with another Washington sports betting bill WA SB 5212. This one was sponsored by Maverick Gaming and is aiming to expand the potential sportsbooks in the state to include cardrooms and racetracks.

The bill has failed to gain any real traction in the state legislature as the tribes have pushed back hard against the bill.

The regulatory process has seen traction made for tribal sportsbooks. The application process has been figured out and tribal casinos will soon be able to apply for a license. They’ll have to undergo a thorough background check and pay a fee of $5,000.

An exact timeline for when these venues will open is still unclear.

Sportsbooks In Washington

Suquamish Casino Resort
The Suquamish Clearwater Casino Resort was among the first to apply for a Washington sports betting license.

As stated before, the only locations that are allowed to host sportsbooks in Washington are tribal-owned casinos. Under the state’s current gaming compact, there are 22 tribes that operate a total of 29 casinos. This means a sportsbook could eventually become legal at any one of these locations:

  • Lucky Eagle Casino
  • Coulee Dam Casino
  • Mill Bay Casino 12 Tribes Resort Casino
  • Ilani Casino Resort
  • 7 Cedars Casino
  • Northern Quest Casino
  • Kalispel Casino
  • Silver Reef Casino
  • Muckleshoot Casino
  • Muckleshoot Casino II
  • Red Wind Casino
  • Northwoods Casino
  • The Points CAsino
  • Emerald Queen Casino at I-5
  • EQC at Fife
  • Quinault Beach Resort & Casino
  • Lucky Dog Casino
  • Snoqualmie Casino
  • Chewelah Casino
  • Spokane Tribe Casino
  • Little Creek Casino Resort
  • Angel of the Winds Casino
  • Squamish Clearwater Casino Resort
  • Swinomish Casino and Lodge
  • Tulalip Resort Casino
  • Quil Ceda Creek Nightclub & Casino
  • Skagit Valley Casino
  • Legends Casino

While none of these locations are located in Downtown Seattle, some of them are located just on the outskirts of the state’s most populated city. 

Options such as Muckleshoot Casino Resort, Emerald Queen Hotel & Casino, and Snoqualmie Casino are all located less than an hour’s drive away from Seattle. Plenty of more options are estimated to open across the state.

So far the Suquamish, Tulalip, Kalispel, and Snoqualmie tribes were the first to apply for sports betting licenses so their casinos should be the first to launch.

Limited Online Sports Betting In WA

Online sports betting in Washington can only be done inside of a licensed tribal-owned sportsbook. This severely limits the benefits of online sports wagering but provides more of a convenient feature for casino sportsbook goers. 

Washingon sportsbooks are expected to partner with more experienced sports betting suppliers and operators similar to tribal casinos in Mississippi. This means bettors may see familiar apps in the future such as DraftKings, PointsBet, William Hill, and more. 

Washington Sports Betting Rules

Washington State vs. Washington
Betting on in-state college teams is not allowed in Washington.

The rules that bettors will want to know surrounding sports betting in Washington ultimately come down to the following: 

  • Sports bettors must be 21 years old or older.
  • Sports betting is only allowed on tribal casino premises.
  • Online or mobile sportsbooks can only be used in tribal casinos.
  • Betting on in-state collegiate programs is not allowed.
  • Betting on high school or minor league events is also not permitted. 

It is because of these rules that the state of Washington may not be able to capture the full amount of its sports betting industry. There is a possibility that the rules may be amended in the future, which many sports bettors are hoping for now.

Washington Sports Betting FAQs

Who Is In Charge Of Washington Sportsbooks?

The Tribal Gaming Compact Regulation will be in charge of overseeing the WA sports betting industry.

Will Maverick Gaming Actually Sue The State For Legalizing Sports Betting?

Maverick Gaming, a Nevada-based casino operator with properties in Washington, has publicly threatened to sue the state of Washington due to the fact that the emergency measure placed on the bill ultimately allowed the legislature to exclude them from the sports betting industry and get around waiting for a ballot vote. But, the company has yet to file an official lawsuit and it is unclear if they actually will. 

When Will Legal Sports Betting In Washington Launch?

A definitive date for when legal sports betting in Washington will launch is a bit unclear at this point. The COVID-19 pandemic has already put delays on normal regulatory actions taken in state governments. This will pushback the state’s ability to publish official rules for the industry.

To add to this, all casinos all across the country are shut down due to the virus as well which will delay the tribal casino’s ability to build out their new sportsbooks. With this in mind, look out for Washington sportsbooks to launch closer to the end of 2020.