Washington State Faces Short Clock to Act on Sports Betting Bills

Posted on: January 17, 2020, 10:49h. 

Last updated on: January 17, 2020, 11:18h.

Lawmakers in Washington State have submitted a pair of sports betting bills since the start of the 2020 legislative session, but they face time constraints in terms of acting on the legislation.

Washington State lawmakers are facing a time crunch on sports betting bills. (Image: NBC Sports)

With 2020 being an election and a non-budget year in the Evergreen State, the legislative session, which started this week, lasts just 60 days. That means politicians there have until the end of February to consider two proposals that would bring sports wagering to the state. Not only is there a time crunch, but the sports betting plans are competing with a spate of other bills.

Since the legislature convened earlier this week, policymakers have submitted hundreds of bills, including a proposal to tax single-use plastic bags and a plan to adopt California’s automotive emissions standards.

Last year, lawmakers in the state considered three sports betting packages, with none making it to Gov. Jay Inslee’s (D-WA) desk to be signed into law. Heading into this year, it was expected sports betting could be pushed off to 2021 because of the short legislative session. House Bill 2478 (HB 2478) is the more encompassing of the two sports betting proposals.

‘Prohibited sports event’ means any collegiate spor,t or athletic event that takes place in this state or a sport or athletic event in which any Washington state college team participates, regardless of where the event takes place,” according to the bill.

That means that like neighboring Oregon, the only state on the West Coast to, thus far, approve sports gambling, Washington will bar bettors from wagering on schools located in the state, such as the University of Washington and Washington State, assuming HB 2478 is signed into law.

Inside The Proposals

Authored by Rep. Brandon Vick, a Republican, HB 2478 would permit sports betting at Evergreen State card rooms, racetracks, and tribal casinos. The bill contains a clause that would allow for mobile wagering, but it would need to be tied to a tribal operator.

“A tribal casino and a sports wagering licensee may conduct an online sports pool or may authorize an internet sports pool operator licensed as a casino service industry enterprise to operate an online sports pool on its behalf, provided the terms of the agreement are approved by the commission,” according to Vick’s bill.

HB 2478 requires a $500,000 license fee for interested operators. HB 2368, filed on Wednesday, is more narrow. That proposal would only allow sports wagering at tribal casinos while confining mobile betting to the grounds of those properties.

HB 2368, which doesn’t call for the exclusion of betting on collegiate competitions, has a companion in the Washington Senate in the form of SB 6394.

Interested Stakeholders

There are 29 federally recognized tribes in the Evergreen State, and each one has a Class III gaming compact, with 21 of those bands operating 28 casinos in the state, according to the Washington State Gambling Commission.

The tribes could prefer some level of sports betting exclusivity. But that effort would likely face resistance from card room operators that want access to that revenue stream, too.

For example, Nevada’s Maverick Gaming LLC has been on a Washington card room acquisition binge, positioning itself to benefit from broader sports betting legislation there.