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Tuesday, May 26, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  WA Government

Senate approves sports gambling at tribal casinos

UPDATED: Fri., March 6, 2020

OLYMPIA – Washington moved closer to allowing residents to bet on professional sporting events at tribal casinos this week, after the Senate passed the latest version of a bill to allow that change to state gambling laws.

On a 34-15 vote, the Senate sent back to the House a slightly amended version of the bill, which received strong support in that chamber last month. Gambling bills require a 60% super majority to become law under the state constitution.

If it receives final approval and is signed by Gov. Jay Inslee, tribes could negotiate changes to their gaming compact with the state to add wagers on some professional and college sporting events. They would not be able to take bets on college or university teams in Washington.

Some types of sports wagers allowed in other states, such as betting on injuries, would likely be banned by the Gambling Commission, Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, said.

The Senate approved some minor changes, including a ban on betting on minor league sporting events. But it rejected efforts by some members to expand sports gambling beyond tribal casinos to licensed card rooms in the state, and to remove the emergency clause that would allow the law to take effect as soon as it is signed.

The state was giving a monopoly to tribes and putting all other businesses at a disadvantage, Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, said. It’s difficult to have “one Washington” when the Legislature passes laws that benefit one group over others, he argued.

But Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent, who said she wasn’t a fan of sports or gambling, said confining the expansion to tribal casinos was allowing the state to take a “limited first step” with a group that has shown an ability to control problems associated with gambling. It limits the expansion to gambling controlled by tribes, which are sovereign governments, she said.

The issue is complicated, and people on both sides raise good points, Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, said. But he said it shouldn’t have an emergency clause, which would preclude any effort to block the law through a referendum.

Keiser countered that the gambling wouldn’t happen immediately, but the emergency clause would allow the tribes and the Gambling Commission to begin negotiating compacts, a process that takes months.

The bill was sent back to the House, and the two chambers must agree on a final version by Thursday.

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