The 25 federally recognized tribes of the Washington Indian Gaming Association, 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, Governor Inslee signed the sports betting legislation into law. This bill was passed by a State Senate super-majority with strong bipartisan support, 34-15, and previously passed the House of Representatives with two minor amendments.
“Washington Tribes have a deep historical experience overseeing responsible gaming for three decades,” said W. Ron Allen, Chairman and CEO at Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe.
“We have a trusted, successful partnership with the state where we have effectively managed gaming in a controlled environment and avoided widespread expansion. The partnership between tribes and the state is critically important in ensuring that sports betting in Washington is safe, honest, and well regulated.”
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 will keep sports betting revenues in Washington—benefiting all Washingtonians.
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 to 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
Nevada-based Maverick Gaming has vowed to defeat this legislation by dumping $30 million into legal battles and a potential ballot measure. This out-of-state commercial gambling company wants widespread sports betting in Washington—in 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 facilities under existing compacts will best contain and regulate sports betting in Washington. Tribes and the State have successfully regulated gaming for 28 years and the current gaming structure is proven and trusted.
- Once the bill is signed, each tribe will determine 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 law (RCW 9.46.360). This compacting process is expected to take several months.
- Well-funded opponents of the tribal sports betting legislation have vowed to take legal action and wage a PR and lobbying war to turn back the legislation.
Associated Press: “Washington Governor signs bill allowing sports betting”
Tri-City Herald: “Limit sports betting to tribal casinos”
Wenatchee World: “Sports betting is coming. Let’s make it a safe bet”