The Washington State Gambling Commission took a step closer to asking the state legislature to forgive a $6 million loan at Thursday’s regular meeting, when Chief Financial Officer Chris Stanley and Legal and Legislative Director Brian Considine offered updates on the status of the loan.
The money, which the legislature funneled to the WSGC via the new sports betting law, was supposed to be a loan to help with the costs associated with the start-up of sports betting and to allow the agency to pursue illegal operators ahead of live sports betting. The WSGC says COVID-19 has slowed the start of sports betting and reduced regular casino revenue.
“We’re asking them to strike the transfer out of our account and forgive the loan,” Stanley said. “In part, the pandemic has slowed the work. Working from home can be efficient, but what we’re seeing, a lot of folks, especially parents [are struggling with time management] … and that’s creating real issues in getting work done quickly. What we need is more time from the legislature to implement the sports betting system … at which point we can start collecting licensing fees.
“We are asking for forgiveness. If we do not use all of the funds, we will ask if we can use whatever is left over for investigations.”
WSGC expects stakeholders to be on board
Considine, who will take the lead on actually requesting forgiveness, said that loan forgiveness will help to keep the WSGC from having to raise fees for stakeholders, and that he believes many in the industry will band with the WSGC in lobbying lawmakers to agree to loan forgiveness.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed a bill in March authorizing legal sports betting on a tribal-only basis. Sports betting outside tribal casinos remains illegal in Washington, where it is considered a Class C felony.
Inslee signs bill authorizing sports betting in Washington tribal casinos: https://t.co/fF84n50JFS
— SeattlePI (@seattlepi) March 27, 2020
The only other piece of sports betting business that came up during Thursday’s meeting was a request for the commission to vote to reverse the ban on internet gaming. The WSGC does not have the power to lift the ban, according to staff and commission discussion, as the ban is part of Washington’s law. In the request, Tavares Morales asked the commission to repeal RCW 9.46.240. Staff recommended, and the commission agreed, it does not have the authority to change law, and the petition was denied.
That said, the request likely won’t be the last. Washington lawmakers in March legalized tribal-only sports betting, but during the process heard from commercial stakeholders who want not only retail sports betting but statewide mobile.
In Michigan, tribes agreed to be regulated by the Michigan Gaming Control Board and along with commercial casinos will offer statewide mobile. In Colorado, one Indian tribe took advantage of statewide mobile sports betting and became the first tribe in the nation to offer it. Traditionally, tribes across the country have been hesitant to get on board with statewide mobile as they believe it could damage business at their physical locations.