Washington Senate’s decision to legalize sports betting solely through established tribal gaming interests continues to generate debate and dissent among opponents who see the move as creating an ‘untaxed tribal monopoly’.

The recent 34-15 vote has prompted pushback from some senators and, understandably, operators of the state’s card rooms who argue that giving the tribes a free run at sports betting is a bad deal for the state’s taxpayers. 

Speaking to the Seattle Times, Senator Doug Ericksen, provided opposition to the passing of the bill, stating: “This is a heck of a partnership. I mean, they [tribes] get everything and the taxpayers get nothing on this partnership.”

That said, and despite the wording of the legislation requiring minor amendments prior to its re-approval, those who voted in favor of the newly passed bill have backed it as being a step in the right direction. 

Senator Karen Keiser noted: “We are not looking at widespread commercial gaming throughout our community — which I really don’t think the people of Washington state want to see. That is why it is so wise for our state to take a very small step and work with our trusted partners in the tribes who have shown their ability to contain problems.”

Following its re-approval, Governor Jay Inslee is expected to sign the bill into law. It will then sit for a few months pending new compact negotiations between the state and tribes, whereupon it will become active. 

W Ron Allen, CEO of Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, commented: “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.”

Despite the support in favor of the bill, Nevada-based Maverick Gaming, which recently completed the purchase of 19 of the state’s 44 card rooms, has vowed to block EHB 2638. 

CEO Eric Persson commented: “On behalf of our 2,200 employees and their families who live and work here in Washington State, we are profoundly disappointed that the State Senate has approved a tax-free monopoly for sports betting in tribal casinos that is also tied to a manufactured ‘emergency’ to prevent a public vote.”

The announcement of the approval of the bill continues the nationwide surge to legalize sports betting following the striking down of PASPA in May 2018 by the US Supreme Court.