Washington hearing on bipartisan sports betting bill scheduled today

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The subject of sports betting in the state of Washington is scheduled to be debated today at a public hearing of the Senate Committee on Labor, Commerce & Tribal Affairs. The focus is on bill SB 5212, a bipartisan proposal to create a regulated, legal, and taxed marketplace for sports betting in the Evergreen State. 

The legislation, which rivals proposals for a tribal-only sports betting marketplace, has bipartisan support and is sponsored by State Senators Curtis King and Marko Liias (Majority Floor Leader). 

Since the legislation was introduced, it has also been endorsed by the Washington State Labor Council, local mayors and Chambers of Commerce who advocate that tax revenues generated by sports betting will help bolster critical public services during and after the pandemic, while also stabilizing and creating family wage jobs across the state.

As of November 2020, 25 states and DC have legalized sports betting and are poised to realize millions in revenue as a result. Revenues from local gambling taxes to local jurisdictions in Washington are anticipated to increase by at least 35% with the passage of this bill. 

A staunch supporter of SB 5212 is Maverick Gaming which, through its 19-strong Washington cardroom estate, already contributes approximately $13m annually to the local communities where it operates. It argues that, converse to the tribal proposals, there is room for all licensed, regulated gaming operations, both in the expansive casino resort destinations operated by several tribal nations and within the more modest neighborhood setting of a commercial cardroom.

The firm’s CEO and Co-Founder, Eric Persson, noted: “The history of regulating and taxing gambling in our state is appropriately cautious. Washington has successfully managed a legal gambling system that is a source of tax revenue for public services, and includes efforts to combat problem gambling. 

“Commercial cardrooms have been operating in this system since 1997. SB 5212 will create a taxed and regulated marketplace for sports betting that fits our state’s measured approach by restricting sports betting to on-premise only, and would limit commercial sports licenses to only the currently licensed operators, thus curtailing future expansion. 

“SB 5212 will also ensure no commercial business has a sports betting license before negotiations for tribal compacts are complete. I thank the Senate Committee for hosting a public hearing on this legislation and on behalf of our 2,000 teammates, I urge them to advance this proposal.”

Under the terms of the bipartisan legislation, only existing licensed cardrooms and racetracks would be eligible for a sports betting license and each license would be charged a $100,000 licensing fee to fully cover the cost of a robust regulatory system focused on public safety and integrity.

A state-level 10% tax would be imposed on the operators on all gross revenues from sports wagers. This tax would be in addition to the taxes already levied at the local level.

SB 5212 does not allow betting on collegiate sports events that take place in Washington State or that involve a Washington state team and take place outside of the state. Betting on electronic sports, high school sports, and competitive video games is also forbidden. Any change or impact that would threaten tribal sports betting, and licenses for commercial cardrooms would not be granted before the first tribal compact for sports betting is complete.