Compact amendments

Nine Washington tribes secure federal approval to launch sports betting

Sports betting is expected to further drive revenue to tribal communities. While some casinos are expected to launch operations in the upcoming weeks and months, others like the Snoqualmie Casino aim at offering wagering in time for the NFL season.
Reading time 2:40 min
The deals approved Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Interior will see the 9 tribal casinos enabled to offer sports wagering, some even in time for the NFL season. Seven tribes have applications pending approval. The bill passed by the legislature allows gambling on major league pro sports, international events and college sports, except collegiate games involving in-state schools. Mobile gaming options are prohibited outside the boundaries of tribal casinos.

The U.S. Department of Interior approved Wednesday compact amendments for nine tribal casinos in Washington to offer sports wagering, which would enable them to launch operations, some even in time for the upcoming NFL season.

The nine approved tribes include Tulalip, Stillaguamish, Suquamish, Snoqualmie, Lummi, Puyallup, Squaxin, Cowlitz and Spokane. Applications by Muckleshoot, Swinomish, Skokomish, Kalispel, Jamestown S’Klallam, Shoalwater Bar and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation are pending.

As the NFL season begins Sept. 9, launching sports wagering operations in time for the opening week has been the aim of tribal casinos, some which are still in the process of finalizing the steps needed to do so. Tribes see the 2021 NFL as a golden opportunity to drive sports gambling revenue to their communities.

“This marks a major milestone in Washington State’s Native American tribes’ efforts to strengthen the self-reliance of our tribal communities,” said Rebecca George, Executive Director of the Washington Indian Gaming Association (WIGA). “This approval marks the completion of a critical regulatory step toward to launching sports betting on the premises of tribal casinos.”

As the WIGA expects approval for those seven tribes with applications pending to be secured “in upcoming days,” the association also expects the availability of safe and regulated sports betting to begin at tribal casinos across Washington State in the following weeks, although the NFL season still marks the most prized launching date.

“We’ve worked diligently with the Washington State Gambling Commission, the Snoqualmie Gaming Commission and our vendors for them to submit license applications and are currently on track for the opening week of the 2021 NFL season,” said Stanford Le, president and CEO of the Snoqualmie Casino, reports The Seattle Times. Meanwhile, the Tulalip and Quil Ceda Casinos are hoping to start letting people place sports wagers by early November, according to the Everett Herald.

The timing for sports gambling to go live depends on individual casinos rather than one defined launching date, and how far along they are in implementing needed measures, including having secured approved vendors. In the case of some casinos, it is still likely several weeks will have to pass for these operations to launch.

The U.S. Department of Interior go-signal marks the culmination of an extensive regulatory approval process which began after bipartisan vote in the Washington State legislature in 2020 authorized sports betting on the premises of tribal casinos. According to WIGA, the approval by the Interior Department highlights Washington tribes’ “extensive track record” over the last three decades in providing safe and well-regulated gaming opportunities.

“We do gaming right, and the public can rest assured that we will conduct sports betting in a fair and careful manner,” further added George. “It also ratifies the legislature’s carefully considered decision to limit sports betting to tribal casinos, which will ensure that revenues from this activity will stay in our state and boost our local economy.”

The bill passed by the legislature allows gambling on major league professional sports, international events and college sports, excepting collegiate games involving in-state schools. Online and mobile gaming options are prohibited outside the boundaries of tribal casinos.

There are 15 companies in the process of securing licenses by the state Gambling Commission to operate in Washington, including heavyweights DraftKings, FanDuel, Caesars Sportsbook and BetMGM.

According to WIGA statistics, tribal gaming supports more than 37,000 jobs in Washington, and in 2017 yielded more than $5.3 billion in gross state product. The activity also produced an estimate $722 million in state and local government revenue. “Sports betting will now add to that economic benefit,” believes the trade body.

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