Washington State sports wagers unlikely this year

By Hayley Grammer

The Washington State Gambling Commission (WGC) has warned industry players against hedging bets on any state-wide sports wagers arising in 2020.

This comes after an official meeting on Tuesday, where WGC director David Trujillo said in a statement, “we’ll be realistic, even if realism is not what people want to hear. I think we all agree that we want sports betting to be beneficial … and that any ills are mitigated. We want the process to move as quickly as possible, but the reality is that we are only one agency.”

Although tribal sports betting was legalised in Washington in March by state governor Jay Inslee – meaning that in-person sports wagering on casino properties are permitted – state-wide mobile betting didn’t qualify. While patrons will be able to bet on professional and college teams, sports wagers on Washington State college teams remain prohibited. 

Tribes control the Washington gaming industry, with 29 casinos run by 22 tribes across the state. Four tribes have started renegotiating their compacts to include sports wagering, and two more have requested to do so, but the WGC has warned that these negotiations take time.

While the WGC is only scheduled to meet again on 17 July, it’s moving forward with amending licensing and regulatory structures, creating five workgroups to explore the five pillars for sports betting in the state. However, they must still develop enforcement frameworks, problem gambling programmes and integrity measures, among other considerations.

Additionally, regardless of the speed with which the WGC handles licensing and regulatory changes, no sports betting can take place until all tribal compacts are reworked. Since Inslee signed sports betting into legislation three months ago, only two tribes are currently in official compact negotiations. 

Despite bureaucratic time delays, the amendment to legislation was welcomed by many, with executive director of the Washington Indian Gaming Association Rebecca Kaldor praising Inslee on his decision.

“The revenue generated by tribal gaming [helps] fund critical needs in our communities. As we recover from the [COVID-19 pandemic], the addition of this amenity will help tribal governments fund the essential services their members will need to get back up on their feet,” Kaldor said.


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