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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Washington House considers legalized betting on some sporting events

In this March 15, 2018 photo, people watch coverage of the first round of the NCAA college basketball tournament at the Westgate Superbook sports book in Las Vegas. The Supreme Court struck down a federal law that bars gambling on football, basketball, baseball and other sports in most states, giving states the go-ahead to legalize betting on sports. (John Locher / AP)

OLYMPIA – Betting on Sunday’s Super Bowl is illegal in Washington, but in the future it wouldn’t be under a proposal being considered by a House committee.

Betting on the Mariners or the Seahawks would be legal at tribal casinos under the bill. Betting on the Zags to win March Madness or either the Cougs or Huskies to win the Apple Cup, however, would not be legal under the bill, which is currently written to exclude games played by universities in Washington.

Placing a wager using a laptop or cellphone would remain illegal.

The bill is an attempt to “figure out a slow and steady way to kind of enter into this new arena of gambling,” House Commerce and Gaming Committee Chairman Strom Peterson, the sponsor, said Monday at its hearing. “It’s incumbent on us to find the best way forward.”

As currently written, the state’s tribal casinos would be able to amend their gaming compacts with the state to allow betting on professional, collegiate and Olympic sporting events.

Peterson said in a later interview the prohibition on in-state colleges is an attempt to uphold the integrity of college sports, where young athletes may be more susceptible to pressure and bribery. But he realizes it creates some problems with big events, like the Apple Cup or basketball’s NCAA Tournament if Washington teams go to the Big Dance.

“These are some interesting conversations we’re going to have to have,” he said.

Representatives of tribal casinos supported the bill, saying they were the logical choice for the state’s first foray into sports betting.

“You know us. You trust us,” said David Bean, chairman of the Puyallup Tribe and vice chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association. “We invest our resources in the state of Washington.”

Tribal casinos in Washington employ about 60,000 workers, and more than two-thirds are non-Natives, said Rebecca Kaldor, executive director of the Washington Indian Gaming Association.

But other places where gambling has been legalized and regulated argued that they, too, should get a piece of the action. Eric Persson, owner of Maverick Gaming, which has 19 card rooms in the state, said those facilities should also be allowed to take sports bets.

By limiting it strictly to tribal casinos, “you’ll do nothing to stop the illicit gambling in the state,” Persson said.

Race tracks also should be allowed to take bets on sporting events, said Pat Lepley of the Washington Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association. “Other states authorize sports betting at their race tracks,” he said.

Peterson said he hopes the committee will send the bill to the full House in the coming days in its current form, and possible changes can be worked out as it moves through the legislative process.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this post incorrectly listed the number of card rooms for Maverick Gaming, due to a reporter’s error.