This 2019 photo shows the inside of the Tulalip Casino. The bill that passed Tuesday would allow Washington’s 29 tribal casinos to offer betting on both professional and college sports as well as Olympic events and e-sports. (Sue Misao / Herald file)

This 2019 photo shows the inside of the Tulalip Casino. The bill that passed Tuesday would allow Washington’s 29 tribal casinos to offer betting on both professional and college sports as well as Olympic events and e-sports. (Sue Misao / Herald file)

Bill to allow sports betting advances to state House floor

Rep. Strom Peterson of Edmonds, the bill’s sponsor, hopes to “make everybody comfortable” with it.

Associated Press and Herald staff

OLYMPIA — The chance to place a wager on next year’s Super Bowl or college football national championship is getting closer to reality in Washington.

A bill allowing sports betting in tribal casinos awaits a vote in the state House after receiving strong bipartisan support in the House appropriations committee.

“I’m confident but not overconfident,” said Rep. Strom Peterson, D-Edmonds, the bill’s sponsor. “I still need to talk to a lot of people about it and make everybody comfortable with it, because it is an expansion of gambling.”

Under state law, passage of legislation to expand gambling requires a 60% majority in each chamber.

The appropriations committee voted 25-7 on Tuesday to advance the bill.

Rep. Drew Stokesbary, R-Auburn, the panel’s ranking Republican, supported the legislation.

“This is a reasonable middle ground,” Stokesbary said. “It permits adults who are responsible to engage in an activity that doesn’t harm other people. But it doesn’t make it so prevalent or so pervasive in our society that we as a Legislature have to worry about the morality and ethics of that.”

The U.S. Supreme Court in 2018 struck down a 1992 federal law prohibiting sports betting in most states. Since the law’s repeal, it’s been up to individual states to decide their own sports-gambling course, and 14 have now legalized it, with roughly two dozen more working through legislation to do so.

House Bill 2638 allows the state’s 29 tribal casinos to offer betting on both professional and college sports as well as Olympic events and e-sports. But gambling on games involving Washington colleges, both public and private, would still be outlawed.

In other words, if the University of Washington or Washington State University is playing in the national championship, you won’t be able to place a wager. But you can if it’s Clemson versus LSU.

Tuesday’s vote was a defeat for Nevada-based Maverick Gaming, which owns 19 of 44 “card room” casinos in the state that offer limited card gambling. It backed companion bills allowing sports betting in such facilities and racetracks as well as the tribal casinos, but neither made it out of committee.

If House Bill 2638 clears the House, it will be sent to the Senate for consideration.

The 60-day session is scheduled to end March 12.

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