Bills that expands Washington sports betting market criticized by tribes

Seattle Seahawks football helmet
Image: dean bertoncelj/Shutterstock

The Washington Indian Gaming Association (WIGA) has criticized new bills that would expand sports betting outside of tribal casinos in the state of Washington.

Sports betting has been live in Washington since September 2021, but under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, only tribal casinos can offer it. There are no online sportsbooks.

New bipartisan bills – HB 1630 & SB 5587 – introduced this week in the Evergreen State’s house and senate could change that, as they propose to allow sports wagering in the state’s cardrooms and racetracks outside of tribal lands.

Maverick Gaming, a gaming and entertainment company with cardrooms in Washington, has been pushing for sports betting beyond tribal casinos for the past year. The WIGA has been against it.

In response to the new bills, Rebecca George, Executive Director of the Washington Indian Gaming Association, has called on legislative leaders to reject them.

She stated: “Our tribal gaming system is safe, responsible, and benefits communities across Washington. The system works well and strikes the right balance. 

“The option to participate in gaming activities is available to responsible adults, but through compacts, additional tribal investments, and community partnerships we have minimized the negative social consequences that can sometimes result from gambling.

“In their own words, Maverick wants to ‘bring sports betting to the mass population of Washington.’ But Washington voters and elected officials have decisively rejected previous efforts to uproot our existing system and massively expand non-tribal gaming.

“The public’s resistance to major gambling expansions in their neighborhoods and local communities remains strong. 

“Washington State tribes continue to strongly oppose Maverick’s gambling expansion legislation. It would severely undermine Washington State’s safe and successful system of gaming and would put Washingtonians at risk, and we call on legislative leaders to once again reject it.”

Maverick Gaming and the WIGA have been in disagreement over the application of sports betting in Washington for over a year.

In January 2022, the gaming company filed litigation in the US District Court for the District of Columbia to contest an application of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. 

Maverick Gaming stated the act was “being used inappropriately to give tribes exclusive rights to certain types of gaming, such as sports betting, that are not allowed in non-tribal gaming properties in Washington State.”

Last May, the litigation was moved to the US District Court for the Western District of Washington. A court date is yet to be determined, but there is a belief that regardless of its outcome, the other side will appeal, taking the case to the Supreme Court.