Potential sports betting operators in Washington state got some long-awaited news Wednesday: They’ll be able to file applications starting sometime next week and the Washington State Gambling Commission said it is aiming to have sportsbooks go live in September.
Wednesday’s special commission meeting addressed only sports betting rules, and the commission voted unanimously to approve most of them, while holding some over for further discussion. Commission staff plans to file the approved rules with the state’s code reviser Friday, July 30, and begin taking applications shortly thereafter.
Washington lawmakers approved retail-only, tribal-only wagering in March 2020. The commission began accepting pre-licensing application packets several months ago with the idea that once the application process was officially open, it would be able to quickly approve operators. At Wednesday’s meeting, legislative liaison Brian Considine — who will soon be moving into a new position with the state’s Department of Natural Resources — said that once the rules are filed Friday, there is a 31-day waiting period before they become effective on Aug. 30.
Between now and then, potential operators can file applications, but commission staff won’t be able to approve applications until Aug. 30 or later.
New rule decreases ‘major vendor’ fee
Considine recommended that the commission approve his “Option A” rules, which include “non-substantive” technical and language changes, as well as a $20,000 reduction in the license fee for major vendors. Option A allowed the commission to hold out section 230-19, which deals with account requirements, system requirements, records retention, and the like for further discussion. Multiple operators requested changes to this section, which will not hinder the commission’s ability to approve applications or launch operators.
.@WAGambling chair Bud Sizemore said getting sports betting up an running will benefit all citizens in Washington state and move people away from the black market. Commissioners delayed until October final approval of a separate chapter of rules related to vendors. @GamblingComp
— Chris Sieroty (@sierotyfeatures) July 28, 2021
Representatives from BetMGM, BetRivers, DraftKings, FanDuel, and William Hill all offered written comment on that section and others ahead of the meeting, including:
- Asking that the requirement that cloud storage be based in Washington State be removed.
- Requesting that the commission change a section on reporting requirements to mirror that of other states by using the “GLI-33 §2.9 list of minimum reports,” rather than the Washington-unique list that is currently in the rules, and asking that language in the rule mirror that of the tribal-state compacts.
- Suggesting language changes around around “unusual” vs. “suspicious” wagering activity.
- Requesting that Rule 203-19-060 be changed to require data providers, rather than operators or vendors, to retain certain data records.
- Seeking clarity on the kinds of “non-substantive” changes an operator could make to its system without regulator approval.
Expect major operators to be in the mix
So far, the WSGC has received pre-licensing packets from Betfred, BetMGM, Caesars Sportsbook, DraftKings, FanDuel, and Rush Street Interactive. Each will have to be partnered with a federally recognized tribe.
To date, 16 tribes have signed revised compacts with the state, and those compacts are under review by the U.S. Department of the Interior. Some of those pacts were sent to the DOI on or around July 9. From there, the DOI has 45 days to act (or not and allow the pacts to become official) and then 90 days to publish the pacts in the Federal Register. Sports betting cannot go live until the pacts are operational.
“This vote by the Gambling Commission means Washington State tribes remain on track to be able to go live with sports betting on the premises of tribal casinos in the near future,” said Washington Indian Gaming Association Executive Director Rebecca George via press release. “We applaud the effort and work that the Gambling Commission and its staff have put into keeping this process moving forward in a timely and responsible way, and we are pleased that it appears that interested adults in Washington State will soon be able to place wagers on sporting events in a safe and responsible way.”
So far, the only tribal-state gaming compacts approved by the DOI this year are the Arizona compacts, and the DOI took about a month to approve and publish those. A pact between Florida and the Seminole Tribe is currently under review, with a decision expected in the next few weeks.