Washington state lawmakers have introduced a bill to expand sports wagering beyond tribal casinos for the second consecutive year.
The Senate bill seeks to expand sports betting to include the state’s licensed privately-owned card rooms and horse race tracks and is once again being pushed by Nevada-based Maverick Gaming, the Associated Press reports. A similar proposal failed last year, but supporters say the new effort has bipartisan support and could provide revenues to help the state’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last session, before the pandemic damaged the economy, lawmakers approved sports gambling for Native American tribes, but that has yet to take effect as government compacts are still being negotiated. Lawmakers at the same time rejected a bill seeking to open sports gambling to non-tribal competition.
Maverick Gaming CEO Eric Persson said the company remained committed to improving the economy of Washington state. "The bill lays out a modest approach that will generate economic opportunity for our workforce, create approximately 10 new jobs at each of our 19 locations, and help spark pandemic relief efforts by contributing tens of millions of new tax dollars to local and state programs,” he said. Maverick controls 19 of Washington’s 44 licensed card rooms. Persson has estimated up to $50 million in state taxes can be generated annually off sports gambling.
Senate Bill 5212 is co-sponsored by Republican state Sen. Curtis King of Yakima and Democratic floor leader Sen. Marko Liias of Lynnwood. It would apply only to existing card rooms and racetracks. It allows for online sports gambling, but only within the limits of the gaming venues. Each facility must have its own license and would be charged a $100,000 licensing fee. A state-level 10% tax would be imposed on the operators on all gross revenues from sports wagers. This tax would be in addition to the taxes levied at the local level.
In addition, the bill would not allow any betting on college sports events that take place in Washington state or that involve a Washington state team. Betting on esports, high school sports, and competitive video games would be prohibited.
For decades, tribal casinos have operated most of the legalized gambling in Washington. The state allows limited gambling outside tribal facilities in “card room” casinos, but only card games such as blackjack and some poker are allowed. The Washington Indian Gaming Association, which represents the interests of tribal casinos, opposed the proposal last year and will oppose it again this year, executive director Rebecca George said. Tribes have shown they know how to properly offer gambling, employ about 30,000 people statewide, and use gambling revenues to fund their operations and social programs, George said.