Two bills that include tribal sports betting have been filed in the Washington state legislature in the last two days, and both include the college “carve out” and allow sports betting on tribal lands. Neither references a “royalty” or official league data mandate. Other than that, the House bills bear little resemblance to each other.
Time will be of the essence for both bills, as the legislature has only a 60-day session and 2020 is a non-budget year. Any bill introduced would have to get out of committee by the first week of February to have enough time to get all the way to the governor’s desk, and gaming expansion in Washington requires a two-thirds super majority vote.
The more inclusive of the two bills is HB 2478, which would allow state-wide online/mobile wagering, and betting at tribal casinos, card rooms and horse racetracks. The bill was filed Tuesday by Representative Brandon Vick, and calls for a 10 percent tax rate on gross gaming revenue for card rooms and horse racetracks, a $500,000 application fee, and a college carve out for Washington-based schools. It allows for state-wide mobile with only one skin per licensee, and it appears that any mobile platform would have to be tethered to a tribal casino facility.
Lawmaker: ‘I want the full discussion’ on sports betting
Of note, the 10 percent tax won’t apply to bets placed in tribal casinos or on tribal lands, which Vick says is standard in Washington gaming. That said, a bet placed in, say, Seattle, via an app connected to a tribe would be taxed at the 10 percent race. While the tribes do pay the state for particular services (i.e. enforcement) or have deals with local jurisdictions, they do not currently pay the state a percentage of GGR, and under the bill will not be asked to do so for sports betting.
Vick sees his bill as a starting point for the discussion in Washington, and tried to be as inclusive as possible in drafting it.
“I want the full discussion to take place,” Vick told Sports Handle. “And for political reasons, if we have to narrow down, that’s great. That’s how politics works, right?
“But how can you move a bill that is big, a bill that is going to have a lot of people pro and con, and avoid as many objections as possible at the beginning?”
One provision that would likely come under fire by potential operators is that the bill would allow the Washington State Gambling Commission to set the maximum wager allowed. This issue has arisen in other jurisdictions, and operators have pushed back, and the provision has been removed. Another tidbit is that operators won’t get to keep 100 percent of unclaimed tickets — the bill says operators can keep half, with the other half going to a problem gambling fund.
HB 2478 got its first reading on Wednesday, and has been referred to the Commerce and Gaming Committee. In the Senate, companion bill 6277 was filed Tuesday and assigned to the Senate’s Labor and Commerce Committee.
Bill gives small nod to pro leagues, NCAA
HB 2368, which was filed on Wednesday, is a more narrow bill that allows only tribal sports betting with on-site mobile. No tax or licensing framework is outlined in the bill, which would allow the professional sports leagues and NCAA a voice in the rule-making process (“To provide to professional and collegiate sports teams and leagues an opportunity to provide comment in the adoption of any rules related to sports wagering.”).
There are 16 sponsors listed on the bill, and a companion Senate bill has been also been filed, SB 6394.
Washington lawmakers introduced multiple bills in 2019, but none got out to a vote on either chamber floor. In the fall, state’s gambling commission held a meeting with potential stakeholders, and Major League Baseball outlined its “pillars” for a good sports betting law, which include a “data mandate” and a royalty. The gambling commission also made a presentation outlining a plan to create an integrity unit, whistleblower policies, and other framework. The commission hopes to be the regulator should lawmakers legalize sports betting.
Only one state on the West Coast currently has legal sports betting — Washington’s southern neighbor, Oregon. When it launched mobile sports betting via the state lottery in October, it became the first state to go live with only mobile. There is also activity in California, where a coalition of tribes has filed for the opportunity to put a sports wagering referendum on the November ballot, and lawmakers held what is presumably the first of multiple informational meetings in early January.
Should Washington legalize, it would do so with a fairly mature gaming structure. The state currently has more than 30 tribal casinos and one active racetrack at Emerald Downs near Seattle. There are also card rooms dotting the state, though their numbers are declining.