Bill to allow sports gambling in Washington moves to Senate
OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — A bill to allow sports gambling in Washington state, but only at Indian casinos, has been approved by a state Senate committee despite concerns about a controversial emergency clause attached to it.
A Senate Ways & Means Committee rejected calls Monday to scrap the emergency clause, which blocks the bill from being subjected to a statewide referendum requiring 60% support to pass.
The Seattle Times reports the committee sent the bill to the full Senate despite objections that it grants a tax-free monopoly to the state’s Indian tribes while hurting smaller commercial card-room casinos. The vote by the Senate is the last major barrier before sending the legislation to Gov. Jay Inslee for his signature.
“This is the wise and cautious approach to take,” committee Chair Karen Keiser, D-Des Moines, said shortly before the bill was voted through.
Keiser added that authorizing such gaming beyond tribal casinos “would open us up to trouble” through potential widespread proliferation.
But those opposed to the bill, including Nevada-based Maverick Gaming — which in the past year acquired 19 of the state’s 44 commercial card-room casinos — contend their venues should also gain access to the lucrative sports gambling market.
Committee members Monday did amend the bill to exclude minor league sports. That means the bill technically must be reapproved by the House once the Senate passes it — but that’s considered a formality.
Sports gambling has long been illegal in Washington and almost everywhere nationwide. But the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018 quashed a federal law banning such gambling in all but a few jurisdictions, leaving it to individual states to now decide their own course.
The bill would allow betting on professional and college sports, but not on college teams based in Washington state. Bets must be placed at Indian casinos.
Maverick Gaming CEO Eric Persson argued in public hearings held by the committee last Friday that the state will lose up to $50 million annually in tax revenues by not authorizing sports gambling beyond tribal venues. He added the only reason the emergency clause was invoked was because lawmakers know Washington residents would never approve the bill as proposed.
Persson has vowed to spend up to $30 million this election cycle on litigation, campaigning, television advertisements and anything else to block the bill from becoming law.
Senators on Monday debated an amendment to remove the emergency clause, but it was defeated 14-10.