he Washington State Gambling Commission on Thursday approved amendments to gambling compacts for 15 tribes that would pave the way for them to offer sports betting at their casinos.
Members of the commission voted 7-0, with two excused, on the requests from all 15 tribes to approve the amendments and send them to Gov. Jay Inslee for his approval. This was the next step in the process of allowing sports betting, following approval last year by the state Legislature. If the governor approves, the issue will be sent to the federal government for approval.
“We have 15 sports wagering amendments going to the governor’s office,” commission chair Bud Sizemore said after the vote, the Associated Press reports.
On Thursday, several tribal members outlined the financial benefits of gambling and said sports betting would expand revenues that are used to support a wide variety of social programs and other operations by once-impoverished tribes. “I ask respectfully the commission to pass this forward,” said Stanford Lee, Chief Executive Officer of the Snoqualmie Casino.
The Tulalip Tribes told the commission that tribes are collectively the seventh-largest employer in the state, with non-Indians making up 70% of the work force. They said sports betting will create even more jobs for Washingtonians. While casinos have provided an economic boom for tribes, there is still much work to be done, said Jaison Elkins, chairman of the Muckleshoot Tribe.
People testified that tribes have a three-decade record of successfully offering gambling in a safe environment, with the funds going not to private investors but to government programs. The Legislature twice has rejected efforts by the owners of private card rooms in the state to offer sports betting.
Tribes whose request to allow sports betting was forwarded to the governor were the Tulalip, Suquamish, Kalispel, Snoqualmie, Colville, Cowlitz, Jamestown S’Kallam, Lummi, Muckleshoot, Puyallup, Shoalwater Bay, Spokane, Squaxin Island, Stillaguamish and Swinomish tribes.
Rebecca George, Executive Director of the Washington Indian Gaming Association (WIGA), said in a statement that "tribes across Washington State are applauding" the Washington State Gambling Commission’s approval. “The Commission’s vote highlights the strong and collaborative partnership between tribes and the state that has emerged over the last three decades as our limited and carefully regulated system of gaming has taken shape. By fitting sports betting into the existing – and proven – tribal gaming system, the state has ensured that sports betting revenues will stay in Washington and will go towards uplifting historically marginalized communities, while creating local jobs, boosting the state economy and funding critical services for those in need," she added.
The Washington Legislature last year passed House Bill 2638 to allow sports gambling at tribal casinos. In April, Sizemore said he was hopeful sports wagering could begin in Washington before the NFL regular season starts. The bill passed by the Legislature would allow gambling on major league professional sports, the Olympic Games and other international events. There would also be betting on college sports, with the exception of no betting on games involving in-state schools. There will be no online or mobile gaming options outside the walls of tribal casinos.