In 2018, a U.S. Supreme Court decision boosted sports betting around the country. As a result, our state legislature has spent nearly two years evaluating how best to legalize sports betting here, while minimizing any negative consequences. After careful consideration, a growing, bipartisan group of legislators is supporting a bill that will allow legal sports betting, but limit it to the premises of tribal casinos.
This is a wise and prudent approach, one that will protect public safety by limiting access and ensure that sports betting is fair and honest. It ensures that the revenues it generates will go toward addressing important public priorities in our communities, and will enhance the lives of both tribal and non-tribal Washingtonians.
Washington tribes have deep experience over nearly three decades in overseeing gaming responsibly. Tribal casinos are highly regulated environments, and we are trusted partners with the state when it comes to effectively regulating gaming in a safe and controlled manner. That long track record of strict oversight is will be critically important in keeping sports betting safe and reliable.
Moreover, this approach is strictly limited. It makes sports betting an additional gaming amenity and would not expand the gambling footprint in Washington. Most Washingtonians do not want gambling in every community and on all our devices. The last time non-tribal interests sought a major expansion of non-tribal gaming with Initiative 892, more than 61% of voters said no, and there is no reason to believe that public sentiment has changed.
Third, this legislation benefits all of Washington, because tribal gaming benefits are felt everywhere in Washington state. Tribal governments support nearly 60,000 jobs here, with nearly 70% of those jobs held by non-tribal members. And these are good jobs – we’re proud of the fact that the jobs we offer create extraordinary advancement opportunities, unsurpassed benefits and outstanding career pathways for our employees.
These jobs translate into $1.5 billion in wages and benefits, and over $722 million in state and local tax revenue. Tribes contribute more than $25 million to charities and human services programs. And we provide more than $19 million annually to address problem gambling and support a wide array of prevention, education and treatment programs. Overall, tribal governments add $5.7 billion to the state’s economy. Dollars spent at tribal casinos stay in Washington state.
We know that there are some out there who hope to delay or stop this legislation because they want to use sports betting as a foot in the door for a major expansion of gambling in our state. A Las Vegas-based gambling company has recently spent tens of millions to acquire nearly half the non-tribal cardrooms in Washington. Now they have launched a lobbying and public relations effort to push forward their own proposal, which would legalize sports betting everywhere in the state. Placing a bet would be possible from any laptop or smartphone.
Let’s be clear about what that would do:
It would open the door to ultraconvenient, widespread sports betting.
It would require the creation of what amounts to a new regulatory bureaucracy to oversee an industry that doesn’t currently exist.
Contrary to the company’s claims, a state fiscal analysis shows that it would generate only a small amount of public revenue – not nearly enough to offset the increased social costs. In fact, the negative consequences of this “gambling everywhere” approach would actually cost state taxpayers more than it brings in.
And the profits from sports betting would flow out of state into the hands of a private corporation, rather than staying here to fund public services.
In contrast, the tribal bill is a safe and limited approach. Under federal law, tribes pay all of the costs of regulation and enforcement associated with tribal gaming, so it will not cost the state any revenue, and would provide substantial additional benefits.
Washington state’s tribes are proud of our track record of overseeing safe and responsible gaming. We are proud of our commitment to use the revenues that gaming generates to improve the lives of thousands of Washingtonians. We are proud of our role as trusted partners with the state of Washington.
This is our home. We are your neighbors. We care about, and invest in, our local communities. That is why legalizing limited sports betting at tribal casinos here in Washington is a good bet for the state.
Glen D. Nenema is chairman and CEO of the Kalispel Tribe. Carol Evans is chairwoman of the Spokane Tribe.
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