Tribes In Washington State Closer To Opening Legal Sportsbooks

Written By Kate Rowland on July 6, 2020 - Last Updated on October 26, 2021

Oregon’s neighbor to the north is making strides to become the second Pacific Coast state to offer legal sports betting.

Six tribes in Washington state have expressed interest in adding sportsbooks to their casino operations. Two tribes are already in negotiations with the state. Of the 22 tribes, 29 operate casinos under a compact with the state.

According to a June memo from David Trujillo, the director of the Washington State Gambling Commission, Gov. Jay Inslee’s office has referred four tribes to the agency to begin the process of amending their compacts.

“Each referral is a specific request from a tribe to the governor requesting to enter sports wagering negotiations or amend an ongoing negotiation to include sports wagering. We have met with two tribes already and started the negotiations.”

Trujillo continued, “We are in the process of scheduling introductory meetings with the other two ‘referral’ tribes. We also know of at least two additional tribes that have indicated they will also request negotiations.”

The Suquamish and Kalispel tribes are currently involved in compact negotiations with the state, while the Snoqualmie and Tulalip tribes are next in line, according to Legal Sports Report.

The Suquamish Tribe owns Clearwater Casino Resort in the Seattle area.

The Tulalip Tribes operate the Tulalip Resort Casino near Everett.

The Kalispel Tribe of Indians owns Northern Quest Resort & Casino and Kalispel Casino in the Spokane area.

The Snoqualmie Tribe owns Snoqualmie Casino near Issaquah.

Washington sports betting legislation

Gov. Inslee signed House Bill 2638 into law in March, authorizing tribal casinos to open retail sportsbooks and offer on-site mobile sports wagering.

The law went into effect on June 11. It states that bettors can wager on professional and collegiate athletic events, with the exception of Washington’s college teams. That’s good news for Oregon bettors, who cannot place legal sports wagers on Ducks and Beavers college action.

The Oregon Lottery’s sports betting app, Scoreboard, launched in October 2019. Scoreboard is currently the only option for sports bettors in the Beaver State.

BetMGM Sportsbook has partnered with the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon to offer a mobile sportsbook at Spirit Mountain Casino in the future.

Washington’s sports betting bill allows wagers to be placed on esports competitions, as well.

Law fails for sports betting off tribal lands

An earlier bill that would have authorized legal sports betting beyond tribal lands failed to gain traction in the Washington Legislature.

HB 2478 would have authorized sports wagering at card rooms and racetracks, in addition to tribal casinos.

Washington already allows some types of gambling outside of tribal facilities. Card rooms can offer games, such as poker, when they are against the house and not other players.

In addition, the Muckleshoot tribe operates the Emerald Downs thoroughbred racetrack, located off tribal lands.

Under the current law, the tribe could operate a sportsbook at its Muckleshoot Casino in Auburn, but not at its horse racing facility.

Despite the support of a number of groups, HB 2478 expired without a legislative vote.

Maverick Gaming LLC, which operates 19 of 44 card rooms in the state, was a driving force behind the bill.

A Maverick spokesperson told LSR in February that it would file a lawsuit over the emergency clause in the bill, which called for the law to be enacted immediately, without a referendum.

Maverick said that the emergency clause was a way to get around the usual referendum requirement. It calls for 60% of all legislators to approve a bill before it can be passed.

Legislators who favored the tribal-only sports gambling option said that the tribes’ gambling experience was a major advantage.

“Tribes have more than 20 years’ experience with, and a proven track record of, successfully operating and regulating gaming facilities in accordance with tribal gaming compacts,” wrote the law’s authors.

“Tribal casinos can operate sports wagering pursuant to these tribal gaming compacts, offering the benefits of the same highly regulated environment to sports wagering.”

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Kate Rowland

Kate is an award-winning journalist who has written articles for websites and newspapers across the country. A former Las Vegas resident, she has written sports betting articles for sports handicappers and sports betting websites for more than a decade.

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