Legalize low-stakes sports betting, Edmonds lawmaker says

OLYMPIA — It will be a crime if state Rep. Marko Liias writes Georgetown into a March Madness bracket for the college basketball tourney and the selection pays off with some prize money.

Not for his choice of schools — it’s his alma mater — but the act itself. In Washington, it is illegal to conduct or participate in bracket pools and fantasy sports leagues if any winnings are at stake.

That law has never made sense to the Edmonds Democrat and former Mukilteo city councilman, and he wants it changed.

He’s introduced a bill legalizing bracket pools and fantasy leagues with a prize cap of $100. Those offering higher winnings would remain illegal.

“I think that when our laws don’t recognize reality, it makes our legal process a joke to the citizens,” he said. “The bill fixes this single little problem and sets some simple limits on it.”

The proposal would expand an existing law allowing sports boards in which players pick squares on a board — as is happening a lot this week for the Super Bowl.

The state Gambling Commission would be empowered to inspect the records of any bracket pool or fantasy league should a complaint or concern be made.

This is not a new conversation in the Legislature.

Revisions were discussed a few years ago and went nowhere, said Rick Day, executive director of the state gambling commission.

What may seem minor can turn out to be a tripwire for conflict with federal gaming laws and tribal gaming compacts, he said.

“It sounds like a simple change and from our perspective it would relieve us of a controversy,” he said. “We do normally struggle every spring because that (college tourney bracket pool) is an activity not authorized under the code.”

Probably again in March as there’s almost no chance of Liias’ bill succeeding.

Tuesday is the deadline for policy bills such as this one to be passed out of a legislative committee. As of today, House Bill 3134 has not been given a hearing.

“We’re just trying to let the little guy do the office pool and let people like me bet on Georgetown without fear of breaking the law,” Liias said.

Reporter Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623;

House Bill 3134 regulating bracket pools and fantasy sport leagues can be read online at

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