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Washington state tribal casinos get approval for sports betting

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Washington state tribal casinos get approval for sports betting

September 03, 04:00 PM September 03, 04:00 PM

The U.S. Department of the Interior has given final approval for nine tribal casinos in Washington to start offering sports gambling, while agreements with eight other tribes are pending.

Washington, however, remains the only state out of 30 that does not realize any tax revenue from tribal gaming.

A 2005 compact signed by then-Gov. Christine Gregoire and several tribes allowed them to expand gaming without any revenue-sharing provision. It was estimated that the state could have realized at least $140 million in revenue each year.

Public records show tribal interests made $650,000 in donations to Gregoire’s re-election campaign in 2008.

The federal department announced the approval Wednesday.

A 2020 state law opened the door for the tribes to pursue sports betting, although an emergency clause was added to the bill, ensuring it was not subject to a referendum.

Critics at the time said the clause was added because legislators supporting the bill knew voters would overturn it in a referendum.

“That’s a heck of a partnership,” Sen. Doug Erickson, R-Whatcom, said during floor debate on the bill. “I mean, they (tribes) get everything and the taxpayers get nothing on this partnership.”

Proponents of tribal gaming, however, say that their casinos employ tens of thousands of people – mostly non-tribal members – and pay roughly $1 billion a year in wages and benefits, along with giving millions of dollars each year in grants to local municipalities and charities.

Legislators have rejected expanding sports betting to the 44 privately owned commercial card-room casinos in the state, which projections show could net $50 million annually in tax revenue.

The tribes that received approval are finalizing vendor contracts with the hope of accepting bets by the time the NFL season starts next week.

The casinos began working on plans in July after getting approval from the Washington State Gaming Commission.

One issue that still needs to be worked out is mobile wagering, which is a Class C felony in Washington, along with online gambling. Mobile wagering will be allowed within tribal casinos, but vendors must use a geofenced virtual perimeter to block outside access.

Sports betting has expanded since 2018 when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a federal law banning it outside of Las Vegas and Atlantic City. Washington is now one of more than two dozen states that allow some type of sports wagering.

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