Washington State Turns to Sports Betting for New Tax Revenue

Posted on: January 15, 2021, 11:34h. 

Last updated on: January 15, 2021, 01:41h.

A bill in Washington has been introduced to expand sports betting. It seeks to expand sports betting to racetracks and card rooms.

Washington sports betting tribe card room
At this time next year, people in Washington might be able to bet on their beloved Seattle Seahawks, including player props on such stars as DK Metcalf (left) and Russell Wilson. While tribal casino sportsbooks are likely, a new bill seeks to expand sports betting. (Image: Getty)

Washington legalized sports betting for its federally recognized tribes in March of 2020. The decision came nearly two years after the US Supreme Court repealed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), the federal law that banned full-scale sports gambling everywhere but Nevada.

This week, Senate Bill 5212 was introduced by state Sens. Curtis King (R-Yakima) and Marko Liias (D-Lynnwood). The legislation would open up sports betting to commercial card rooms and horse racetracks.

The sports betting initiative follows a similar effort that failed in the Olympia capital last year. But with COVID-19 devastating state tax revenues, the bill sponsors believe support is now available among the legislature.

Maverick Gaming, which owns and operates 19 of the state’s 44 card rooms, hopes the tribes lose their monopoly on sports betting.

It’s no secret COVID has been devastating both in Washington and around the world,” Maverick Gaming CEO Eric Persson told The Seattle Times. “I think that it’s a lot harder to turn down $100 million biennially than it was maybe a year ago.”

Persson believes expanding sports betting to card clubs and racetracks could generate $50 million in annual state taxes.

Tribes Sports Betting Permitted First

The Washington State Gambling Commission (WSGC) is still finalizing regulations and reviewing applications from tribes. No legal sports bet has yet been placed in the Evergreen State.

SB5212 would require that the WSGC finish issuing tribal sports betting permits before proceeding with sports betting applications from commercial enterprises.

Washington is currently one of only three states that only allows its tribes to conduct sports betting. North Carolina and New Mexico are the other two.

King and Liias’ sports betting bill, as is, would prohibit sportsbooks from accepting bets involving college teams based in Washington. All amateur events, including high school sports, and competitive video gaming, such as esports, would be prohibited.

Gross gaming revenue from sports betting would be subjected to a 10 percent tax. Each card room and racetrack would also be required to pay a $100,000 upfront licensing fee.

One area of the bill that will likely draw considerable discussion is its legality on mobile sports betting. Currently, SB5212 only allows bets to be placed online when the gambler is located within the card room or racetrack. In states where mobile sports betting is permitted, the vast majority of wagers are facilitated online. It’s become quite apparent that for a state to take full advantage of legal sports betting, mobile operations are key.

SB5212 has been directed to the Washington Senate Labor, Commerce & Tribal Affairs Committee for further consideration.

Spring Sportsbook Launch

While the commercial sports betting discussion heats up in the legislature, the WSGC is expected to soon issue sportsbook licenses to numerous tribes.

The Kalispel, Suquamish, Tulalip, and Snoqualmie tribes are expected to be the first licensed sports betting operators in Washington.

The state won’t receive a penny of the sports betting money won by the tribes, as the gaming expansion is not subject to state taxes.