The 25 federally recognized tribes of the Washington Indian Gaming Association (WIGA), Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, Spokane Tribe of Indians and the Upper Skagit Indian Tribe joined together to support legislation authorizing sports wagering subject to the terms of tribal-state gaming compacts.
On March 25, 2020, Governor Inslee signed the sports betting legislation into law. This bill was passed by super-majorities in both the State Senate and House with strong bipartisan support — 34-15 in the Senate and 83-14 in the House.
Authorizing sports wagering in this controlled and limited manner will help tribes continue to provide essential governmental services to both tribal members and the broader non-tribal community, while minimizing a large expansion of gambling and problem gaming challenges. Plus, the legislation ensures sports betting revenues remain in Washington and benefit all Washingtonians — a stipulation that enjoys broad support in the state.
What Gaming Means to Tribal Communities
Tribal governments in Washington rely on gaming revenue for essential government services allowing for self-sufficiency. Unlike commercial gaming, tribal government gaming pays for critical housing, healthcare, education, natural resources and jobs for our communities.
Tribal Gaming Benefits All of Washington
Tribal facilities also benefit the surrounding non-tribal community, as they are major employers and purchasers of goods and services. Unlike out-of-state commercial operators, the tax monies and revenue generated from tribal casinos stay in Washington.
In 2017, the Indian economy in Washington State yielded more than $5.3 billion in gross state product, producing an estimated $722 million in state and local government revenue, plus an additional $352 million in one-time capital expenditures. Combined, tribes are one of the state’s top 10 employers.
Tribal gaming creates opportunities—living wage jobs, sustainable career paths and economic prospects that benefit tribal and non-tribal families and communities.
Avoiding Widespread Gambling
A commercial gaming company (Maverick Gaming) has vowed to upend Washington’s safe and limited approach to gaming by dumping $30 million into legal battles, supporting dangerous legislation and possibly backing a ballot measure. This commercial gambling company wants widespread sports betting in Washington—in neighborhood card rooms and on our mobile devices. Neither the public nor the Legislature supports this massive expansion. States like New Jersey have opted for this ‘gaming everywhere’ approach. But concerns about the accessibility risks, particularly to children and other vulnerable populations, makes this the wrong approach for Washington.
Under the tribal-supported legislation, the Washington state gaming footprint will not expand; it will stay within areas where gambling is currently allowed by law.
Understanding and Addressing Risks
It’s essential to consider the potential impacts sports betting could have on vulnerable populations. These impacts are why tribes supported legislation to limit where sports betting takes place. Relying on the existing, proven and established regulatory structure is the best way to make sports betting legal and safe.
Tribes are already leading efforts to prevent, identify and address problem gambling. Tribes are the main source of funding for problem gambling programs in Washington. Since 2008, they have contributed more than $20 million to support a wide range of solutions.
Regulating Sports Betting Under a Proven System
Limiting sports wagering to tribal casinos under existing compacts will best contain and regulate sports betting in Washington. Tribal, State, and Federal governments have successfully regulated gaming for 28 years and the current gaming structure is proven and trusted.
How it Works
Each Tribe determines whether they wish to offer sports betting. Those who wish to do so may begin the compact negotiation process with the State (via the Gambling Commission), as specified by federal law (25 U.S. Code CHAPTER 29). Compacting is a multi-stepped process and doesn’t happen overnight. Tribes and the State know that getting the structure, rules and regulations right is essential to keeping gaming safe and reliable.
- In May 2021 a legislative hearing was conducted with the Senate Labor, Commerce, and Tribal Affairs and House Commerce and Gaming Committees.
- Several Tribes negotiated with the Washington State Gambling Commission (WSGC) and 15 (the Colville, Cowlitz, Jamestown S’Klallam, Lummi, Muckleshoot, Puyallup, Shoalwater Bay, Spokane, Squaxin Island, Stillaguamish, Swinomish, Tulalip, Suquamish, Kalispel, and Snoqualmie Tribes) reached tentative agreements to allow sports wagering at tribal facilities.
- In June 2021 WSGC reviewed and voted to forward all 15 compact amendments to the Governor.
- In July 2021 Governor Inslee signed 15 tribal sports wagering compact amendments. Tribal Chairs sent the signed compact amendments to the Secretary of the United States Department of Interior for publication in the Federal Register.
- On September 1, 2021 the Department of the Interior published nine amendments to the Federal Register, the final regulatory step in the approval of revised gaming compacts (Tulalip, Stillaguamish, Suquamish, Snoqualmie, Lummi, Puyallup, Squaxin, Cowlitz, and Spokane Tribes received final federal approval.)
- Sports betting on the premises of tribal casinos is expected to launch Fall 2021 – specific dates will vary by Tribe. Tribes are taking a careful and deliberate approach to launching this new offering.