Washington has moved significantly closer to the launch of legalized sports betting this week with Governor Jay Inslee approving agreements between the state and 16 different Native American tribes. According to Inslee, “this will give people the opportunity to participate in a new gaming activity that is safe and well regulated by the tribes.” Approval at the federal level is the next step for these tribes and Washington residents should be very excited as the state hopes to have its sports betting launched by the start of the NFL season in September.
Washington Legal Process So Far
On March 25, 2020, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed ESHB 2638 into law. This bill authorized Washington sports betting at tribal casinos and was passed by both the Senate and House with strong bipartisan support. The Washington State Gambling Commission has since been working through various versions of its legislation, and on June 10, 2021, it approved amendments to gambling compacts for 15 Native American tribes. Commissioners voted 7-0 with two voters excused on these new compacts.
Non-tribal casinos are still making a plea to be included in sports betting in the state, but SB 5212 did not go anywhere after a February 4, 2021 hearing in the Senate Labor, Commerce, and Tribal Affairs Committee. National operators like DraftKings and FanDuel will have the opportunity to sign partnerships with the tribes that have been approved so far.
Native American Tribes Approved
So far, the following Native American tribes have been approved for licenses by the Washington State Gambling Commission: Colville, Cowlitz, Jamestown S’Klallam, Kalispel, Lummi, Muckleshoot, Puyallup, Shoalwater Bay, Snoqualmie, Spokane, Squaxin Island, Stillaguamish, Suquamish, Swinomish, and Tulalip. On July 8, 2021, the Skokomish Lucky Dog Casino was the 16th tribe to be approved by the Commission.
Rebecca George, the Executive Director of the Washington Indian Gaming Association, said “people are very excited. We have worked diligently to bring sports betting to Washington by the start of football season.”
Tulalip Chairwoman Teri Gobin spoke about the excitement surrounding these recent developments, saying “sports wagering is an exciting new opportunity for Washingtonians. The revenue … stays in Washington, creating jobs and increasing charitable contributions that benefit communities throughout the state.”
Sports Betting Industry – Huge Revenue Potential
The tribal gaming industry has already created 37,000 jobs and more than $700 million in state and local taxes off over $5.3 billion in gross state product in Washington. 70% of employees are non-tribal members. There are 29 tribal casinos operated by 22 tribes in the state, and at least half are reportedly interested in sports betting. With a proposed tax rate of 10% on sports betting, the revenue growth could be massive for the state with the legalization of sports wagering.
Federal Approval is the Next Step
Now that Native American tribes in Washington have approved new gaming compacts, the next step will be federal approval from the US government. The US Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland received the compacts signed by Washington tribes on Tuesday, July 6. The US Department of the Interior has 45 days to take action, and each compact must be entered into the Federal Register before licenses can be approved.