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Tribal Casinos to Control Sports Gambling in Washington State

March 30, 2020

For decades, the Indian tribes in Washington state have had a stranglehold on all forms of legal gambling aside from lotteries and race tracks. This control became evident many years back when the state tried to legalize sports gambling games that would be presented through some type of lottery game.

While the lottery idea never fully got traction, it was always assumed that any efforts to bring sports gambling to Washington residents would have to include the states 29 tribal casinos as major players. It's important to note that the tribal gaming interests have a lot of political influence over legislators in Olympia.

This week, Washington officially became the 22nd state to legalized sports betting for its residents. Of the 22 states where residents will be able to bet on sports events being played all over the world, seventeen states already have sports betting operations in place. The other five, Washinton included, are currently working on licensing operators and getting betting windows opens.

In the bill (House Bill 2638) signed by Washington Governor Jay Inslee, the tribal casinos will have the exclusive opportunity to open sports betting operations. Potential bookmakers will need to present applications to the Washington Gambling Commission for approval.

After signing the new bill, Inslee told the press: “This will allow people to participate in a new gaming activity that is safe and well-regulated by the tribes.

This is a big win for tribal casino operators that have been pushing for the opportunity to offer sports betting ever since the US Supreme Court lifted its ban on such activities in May of 2018.

Washington Indian Gaming Association Executive Director Rebecca Kaldor showed the organization's appreciation for passage of the bill in a commentary to the press. She stated:

“The revenue generated by tribal gaming funds critical needs in our communities. Tribal communities and governments are currently dealing with the devastating impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. As we recover from this crisis, the addition of this amenity will help tribal governments fund the essential services their members will need to get back up on their feet.”

It's unclear how long it will take for the tribal casinos to get bookmaking operations in place. There will be a delay as the state of Washington continues its ongoing battle with the deadly Coronavirus pandemic that is currently sweeping throughout the world. It's a good bet that sports betting operations should be in place by the start of the NFL season in August.


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