Sports betting bill signed into law

Native American tribal casinos may be closed across the state and the vast majority of major sports have been shut down worldwide, but tribes may get a financial boost when they reopen.

A bill allowing sports gaming within state tribal casinos was signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee on March 25.

The legislation, which to be put into play requires sports-gaming contracts between the state and Washington’s 29 tribes, received mostly bipartisan support in both House and Senate.

That’s good news for the tribes, said Washington Indian Gaming Association Executive Director Rebecca Kaldor.

“Tribal communities and governments are currently dealing with the devastating impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, with many tribal governments focusing on essential services and shutting down business activities such as casinos,” she said. “As we recover from this crisis, the addition of this amenity will help tribal governments fund the essential services their members will need to get back up on their feet.”

Washington is the 21st state to have sports betting taking place or awaiting launch in the wake of a May 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down a band of such gambling in almost all venues, the Seattle Times reported.

“It has long been the policy of this state to prohibit all forms and means of gambling except where carefully and specifically authorized and regulated,” ESHB 2638 notes. “The legislature intends to further this policy by authorizing sports wagering on a very limited basis by restricting it to tribal casinos in the state of Washington.

“Tribes have more than twenty years’ experience with, and a proven track record of, successfully operating and regulating gaming facilities in accordance with tribal gaming compacts. Tribal casinos can operate sports wagering pursuant to these tribal gaming compacts, offering the benefits of the same highly regulated environment to sports wagering.”

Prior to the bill’s ultimate passage, W. Ron Allen, Tribal Chairman of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, said he fully supports the addition of legal sports gambling.

“The Tribes will be delighted to offer safe sports betting at our casino properties,” Allen said. “While sports wagering will have a marginal revenue impact for rural properties like 7 Cedars Casino, it will be an attractive additional amenity for our guests. This limited approach to sports betting is good news locally. We will continue the successful partnership between tribal governments and the state to keep gambling tightly controlled.”

“And most importantly, we will continue investing gaming revenue in local communities.”

Rep. Strom Peterson, D-Edmonds, sponsored HB 2638.

“Washington’s Tribes have proven to be trusted and responsible gaming operators,” David Bean, Chairman of the Puyallup Tribe of Indians, said. “This bill’s bipartisan support reflects the trust we have built in our communities.”

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