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Governor Signs Washington State Sports Betting Bill Into Law

Bill Will Allow Brick-And-Mortar Betting At Tribal Casinos, Likely To Be Challenged In Court By Card Rooms

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Washington became the first state to legalize sports betting in 2020 after Gov. Jay Inslee put his signature on ESHB 2638.

The bill will allow brick-and-mortar sports betting only at the state’s tribal casinos. Both online betting and card rooms were left out of the bill. The state does not have any commercial casinos.

According to an Associated Press report in the Washington Times, this bill will allow the state to renegotiate current gaming compacts to allow sports betting at the 35 tribal casinos in the Evergreen State.

“This will allow people to participate in a new gaming activity that is safe and well-regulated by the tribes,” said Inslee on the day of signing.

While the state won’t be allowing online betting, a mobile app will be accessible while on tribal grounds. Betting from anywhere in the state will not be permitted.

The bill passed easily in both chambers of the legislature with an 83-14 margin in the House and 34-15 vote in the Senate.

Even with the bipartisan support and signature from Gov. Inslee, it’s unlikely to be implemented soon as a company that runs nearly half of the state’s cardrooms plans on challenging this bill in court.

When the bill first passed the legislature last month, Nevada-based Maverick Gaming LLC announced its plans. The company owns 19 of the state’s 44 cardrooms and believes it is entitled to offer sports betting at those locations as well.

The legal argument behind the suit hinges on an emergency clause put in the bill by one of its sponsors, Democrat Rep. Strom Peterson, which would block the need from a statewide referendum in November.

Judge Philip A. Talmadge released a legal opinion on behalf of the company when two separate bills were circulating through the legislature.

“An emergency clause to this legislation, claiming that either bill is necessary for the immediate preservation of public peace, health, or safety is highly suspect and will only ensure the lengthy litigation testing such a legislative assertion,” wrote Talmade in the opinion.