he Washington State Gambling Commission (WSGC) on Friday voted 3-0 to open the legal sports betting rule-making process and agreed to move forward with a request to the state legislature to forgive or extend repayment of a $6 million loan that is part of the new sports betting law.
These two moves set the ground for when the first tribal compact that includes sports betting is complete, which likely won’t happen for another few months.
Washington lawmakers legalized tribal-only sports betting in March, limited to betting on premises at brick-and-mortar sportsbooks. But unlike in some states, there are no firm deadlines in the bill. For instance, Colorado’s sports betting law required that the state be prepared for systems to go by May 1, 2020, while Virginia’s new law calls for rules to be approved by Sept. 15.
The state and its tribes must complete the compacting process to add sports betting as an authorized activity before the commission can roll out proposed rules or begin the licensing process. Earlier this month, the Tulalip, Suquamish, Snoqualmie and Kalispel Tribes have submitted their applications for sports betting licenses.
“The first step is to get this clarified in compact negotiations,” said WSGC Legal and Legislative Manager Brian Cosidine during the meeting, which was held virtually, Sports Handle reports. “If the agreement is to issue licenses and write regulations, then we will be ready. At three months or so, if we’re in a good place (with compact negotiations) to start moving forward with rules, then we can do so.”
The gambling board is already in negotiations with the four tribes, and it will have to negotiate with each tribe individually, come to an agreement, and then have that agreement signed off on by the state legislature, the governor, and the U.S. Dept. of the Interior.
Cosidine said rules would cover everything from licensing to integrity, but that at this early stage, he couldn’t say exactly how or even when proposed rules would be rolled out. “In Colorado, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and others, they do take that first step with licensing so they can start knowing who is going to come into the space, and regulations second,” Cosidine said. “I’m not saying that’s how it will happen, but that’s what other states have done.”
A second key sports betting item on the agenda dealt with the $6 million loan that the state legislature awarded to the WSGC in March. The loan was added as an emergency provision to the law and was supposed to be used to give the commission a leg up on quashing illegal sports betting.
Gambling Commission CFO Chris Stanley outlined a plan to request an extension on paying back the loan to 2022 or ask for complete forgiveness. Ex-officio board member Sen. Steve Conway strongly recommended asking for an even longer extension — into 2023 or 2024 — rather than going back to the legislature a second or third time. In the end, the board agreed that having the loan forgiven would be the goal, but failing that, it would ask the legislature for an extension.
“I am a proponent of asking for forgiveness, and it is up to Brian (Cosidine) to bring that home,” said board chairman Bud Sizemore. “If he cannot do that, then we ask for another year or two. I don’t want to give up on the idea of additional enforcement.”
The board tabled several other capital projects, including replacing its IT system, in favor of managing the sports betting loan.