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Washington State Bill Would Legalize Online Sports Betting

February 15, 2019

We have witnessed a nationwide push to legalize online gambling on a national scale. Washington state follows several other states that have passed online gambling laws. On a historic level, Washington state hasn't always supported the expansion of gambling. However, because PASPA, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 got overturned, even some of the states that have traditionally gone against gambling have seen this as a lucrative source of tax revenue. 

What Does the Current Landscape Look Like?

Under the current landscape for gambling, you can only legally gamble on tribal lands, and they classify internet gambling as a class C felony. When we look at the landscape of the state, you have 29 different federally recognized tribes. 21 of the tribes operate a total of 28 different casinos within the state. 

Introduced as House Bill 1975

Through House Bill 1975, what we will see comes from the legalization of sports gambling at the professional and college level. However, it will remain with the tribal venues where an individual can go gambling. We won't see changes in that regard. Eight lawmakers have chosen to sponsor the bill including the Majority Caucus Chair Eric Pettigrew. Through this bill, you would be able to gamble on sports at the tribal casinos. However, the bill will also support online gambling, but they will restrict it somewhat to a specific venue. However, the limits on this aren't actually too bad. This puts us in the right direction to where we could see further legalization of online gambling in the future as the government sees this as more lucrative to take the revenues from it. 

Long Road Ahead

Even despite the introduction of this bill, we could see a long road ahead with it. For example, Chris Steams, a member for the Washington state gambling commission, has said that much negotiation will happen before the bill turns into a law. Tribes will have to negotiate on the option to learn more about it. 

We have to keep in mind that the state hasn't proposed to legalized sports gambling on a full scale, and we will still see limitations with this bill. In addition, gamblers will need to be at the casino for them to participate. This could, however, represent a dramatic shift for the state because it's one of the only states in the nation that has made online gambling a felony if you get caught doing it. This represents a dramatic pivot that will switch things up. Back in 2006, Washington state legislature made it a class C felony for anyone caught gambling online. However, no one has ever faced prosecution for gambling in the online environment, which makes it essentially a toothless law.


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