The Washington Senate’s Ways and Means Executive Committee kept a tribal-only sports betting measure moving forward Monday, but not before it considered 15 amendments, many of which would have added commercial sports betting at card rooms. The committee needed only a voice vote to give the bill a “do pass” recommendation after striking down or withdrawing 13 of 15 proposed amendments.
A $6 million appropriation to the Washington Gambling Commission to start integrity services ahead of live sports betting was accepted, along with the prohibition of betting on minor-league sports. HB 2638 will now head to the Senate Rules Committee, which will be the last stop before the bill could reach the Senate floor, and ultimately, Governor Jay Inslee’s desk for signature. The Washington State legislature adjourns on March 13.
On Monday, multiple amendments would have added card rooms to the bill, and two sought to remove an emergency clause that was added in February. The emergency clause keeps the decision on sports betting in the legislature and means that it does not have to go to the voters.
Maverick Gaming, which purchased 19 card rooms in Washington last July, sought to have the clause removed during a public hearing by claiming that it is unnecessary, but committee Chair Karen Keiser said it’s not just about sports betting — the clause also allows for the Gambling Commission to move forward immediately on current cases that may be backlogged due to a lack of funds. The clause in conjunction with the $6 million appropriation would allow for those current cases to move forward.
Maverick: We’ll spend $20-$30m to stop bill
Senator Ann Rivers pushed for the inclusion of card rooms in the bill, as she did during the public hearing last week, but her amendments, along with one that would have imposed additional labor requirements on the tribes and one that would have required more women be represented among businesses in sports betting, failed to pass.
If passed, HB 2638 would legalize retail sports betting at tribal locations only. There is no mobile component, meaning residents statewide would not have access to online/mobile sportsbooks. Wagering would be on premises only. The bill also prohibits betting on Washington state collegiate athletics teams.
According to the Seattle Times, Maverick Gaming last week pledged to spend whatever it takes to stop passage of this bill. At Friday’s hearing, Maverick Gaming owner Eric Persson and several employees testified about their frustration at being shut out of sports betting.
“We’re prepared to spend $20-$30 million this election cycle to protect our 2,200 employees in the state and bring this matter to the attention of all Washingtonians to educate them about what’s gone on,” Persson told The Seattle Times ahead of Friday’s public hearing.
“Nothing’s off the table. We’ll do everything we can. Litigation, lobbying, TV ads, whatever it takes to get the message out there.”
Persson said in testimony Friday that there “is no path to 60%,” the number of votes needed to pass sports betting by referendum, and that the addition of the emergency clause is simply a ploy by lawmakers and the tribes to get what they want.
Lawmakers don’t seem to be listening. The executive committee broke to caucus on the proposed amendments, but for less than an hour, and when it came time to vote on the card-room amendments, the votes weren’t close.