Tribal-casino sports betting bill advances in Legislature

Some have suggested sports betting should also be allowed in card rooms and at horse tracks.

By Nicholas K. Geranios / Associated Press

A bill to allow Washington tribal casinos to offer betting on sports events is moving forward in the Legislature.

The Senate Labor and Commerce Committee on Monday approved House Bill 2638 without amendment and sent it to the Senate Ways and Means Committee. The bill, which recently passed the state House by an 83-14 vote, would allow people to place bets on professional and college sporting events at the 29 tribal casinos in the state, the committee was told.

State Rep. Strom Peterson, D-Edmonds, a supporter of the bill, said sports bets are already being placed illegally in the state.

“This is a really important small step into this new world of sports gaming,” Peterson told the committee.

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 has been up to individual states to decide if they will allow sports betting. More than a dozen states, including Oregon, have legalized sports betting and dozens more are working through legislation to do so.

Some people have suggested that sports betting should also be allowed at Washington state’s 44 card rooms and at horse racing tracks. Numerous employees of Nevada-based Maverick Gaming, which operates 19 card rooms, testified about how the company provides good-paying jobs that would be preserved and expanded by sports betting.

But the committee declined to amend the bill to include card rooms and horse racing tracks.

State Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, asked why the card rooms were being excluded.

Peterson said it was because supporters of sports betting wanted to start small, and could look at possible expansion down the road. Tribal representatives also noted that Maverick Gaming is an out-of-state company that would take gambling revenues to Nevada.

Committee Chair Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Des Moines, said she was not a big fan of sports or gambling.

“Gambling brings with it the threat of addiction and corruption,” Keiser said. “This limited first step toward allowing sports betting in Washington will begin to combat the illegal betting that is already going on.”

The bill passed on Monday would allow betting on college sports, but not on games involving public or private colleges based in Washington.

It takes a 60% majority in both the House and the Senate to pass gambling-expansion bills.

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