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No sports gambling “realistic” in Washington State until next year

by: Erik Gibbs for - posted on: 24-Jun-2020

Sports gambling was approved in Washington State this past March after Governor Jay Inslee signed off on House Bill 2638 (HB 2638). The legislation allows state tribes to launch sportsbooks and, with 29 federally-recognized tribes in Washington, there’s a lot of gambling action that could be seen. It would be great if sports gambling could be offered now, since the four major sports leagues in the US are getting ready to return to action. However, according to the Washington State Gambling Commission (WGC), don’t bet on sports wagers to be allowed this year – 2021 is a more “realistic” goal.

Since sports gambling was legalized, four tribes have already begun working on ways to alter their gaming compacts with state officials, and two others have submitted requests to change theirs. However, WGC Director David Trujillo asserts that the process of renegotiating the agreements takes time. He said in a statement that the commission wants to be “realistic even if realism is not what people want to hear.”

Part of the delay is the myriad of components that make up the gaming compacts and Washington’s gambling laws. The commission is already addressing licensing and regulatory requirements and developed five different workgroups to discuss sports gambling. Also up for discussion are how to handle enforcement and problem gambling, all of which have to be considered alongside the compact negotiations. Before sports gambling can be allowed, every component has to reviewed and approved.

There’s also the fact that Trujillo is currently otherwise disposed. He cannot dedicate as much time as he would like to his commission responsibilities since he is currently with the Washington National Guard as a captain serving as the unit’s chief of staff. As a result, commissioners have put tribal sports gambling on the back burner, but Trujillo has tried to keep abreast of the situation. He added in his statement, “I think we all agree that we want sports betting to be beneficial … and that any ills are mitigated. We want the process to move as quickly as possible, but the reality is that we are only one agency … we are not sitting idly by, we are dedicating our staff to show lawmakers that we are worthy of this role.”

Even though the tribes reportedly starting reworking their compacts before SB 2638 became law, there is a lot of negotiating that has to be done. Out of the 29 tribes in the state, 22 operate a total of 29 casinos, and this means that lawmakers have to get together with all 22 tribes to discuss their agreements and reach equitable settlements for all of them before anything moves forward. Once everything is in place, in-person sports wagers will be allowed, but online sportsbooks have not been legalized. Sports gamblers will be able to find action on both professional and college sports events.

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