In a bill signing ceremony on Wednesday, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed into law a new bill that will allow sports betting to occur in tribal casinos in the state. The bill, which was introduced earlier this year and quickly passed by both chambers of the state legislature, will add Washington to a growing list of states with some form of legalized sports gambling. Under the new law, tribes that operate casinos will be able to modify their compacts with the state under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act to authorize sports betting.
“Tribes have more than twenty years’ experience with, and a proven track record of, successfully operating and regulating gaming facilities in accordance with tribal gaming compacts,” reads the bill’s text. “Tribal casinos can operate sports wagering pursuant to these tribal gaming compacts, offering the benefits of the same highly regulated environment to sports wagering.”
As it passed his desk, Inslee said the new law would “give people the opportunity to participate in a new gaming activity that is safe and well-regulated by the tribes.” It may be months, however, until the newly authorized sports gambling actually occurs in tribal casinos, as many sporting events are currently cancelled or postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic response. Tribal casinos throughout the state have also closed in efforts to slow the spread of the virus, likely making the new source of revenue even more welcome after they re-open and successfully amend their compacts.
The Washington Indian Gaming Association is optimistic about the new rules. “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,” the organization wrote. “Plus, the legislation will keep sports betting revenues in Washington—benefiting all Washingtonians.”