The Washington State Senate on Thursday evening passed legislation to legalize sports betting in the state’s tribal casinos.
House Bill 2638 passed 34-15, receiving the 60 percent support gambling-related legislation requires to be adopted under the state constitution.
“To me, this is fundamentally about protecting a sovereign nation’s revenue and their ability to invest in education, the environment, health care and other measures that strengthen their communities,” said Sen. Rebecca Saldaña, D-Seattle, who sponsored the Senate companion bill. “For years our state’s sovereign nations have built an impressive, accountable gambling infrastructure in our state. They are ready to take on this additional responsibility.
“This is a measured, reasonable, and responsible step forward.”
Sports gambling in Washington would not be available for another eight months to a year while the state’s Gambling Commission and interested tribal nations negotiate a required gambling compact. The bill does not permit betting on collegiate or minor league sports. It also does not allow online gambling offsite from the casino.
The bill was amended in the Senate Ways & Means Committee and will head back to the House for further consideration. The 2020 legislative session ends March 12.
“The 29 tribes in Washington state have a deep historical experience overseeing responsible gaming for three decades. We have a trusted, successful partnership with the state where we have effectively managed gaming in a controlled environment and avoided widespread expansion. The partnership between tribes and the state is critically important in ensuring that sports betting in Washington is safe, honest, and well regulated,” said W. Ron Allen, chairman/CEO at Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe.
Rebecca Kaldor, executive director of the Washington Indian Gaming Association (WIGA), applauded the Senate’s vote.
“Tribal gaming is government gaming. It is much different from commercial gaming. Indian gaming funds essential services desperately needed in our communities – education, natural resources, human services, housing and infrastructure, just to name a few,” Kaldor said. “Through the compacts we negotiate collaboratively with the Washington State Gambling Commission we ensure that tribal gaming is safe and regulated and that it has a significant positive fiscal impact for the state of Washington.”
The legislation, developed over two years of collaborative work between tribes, legislators and state officials, ensures that sports betting benefits all the people of our state. Tribal governments support about 60,000 jobs across the state, with nearly 70 percent of those jobs held by non-tribal members. They pay more than $1.5 billion in wages and benefits, and over $722 million dollars in state and local tax revenue.
Tribes also contribute more than $25 million to charities and human services programs, and more than $20 million 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.