Tribal-Washington state deal could allow more gambling machines at tribal casinos

Tribal Washington state deal could allow more gambling machines at tribal casinosA tentative deal between Washington state and Indian tribes, if approved, would allow more gambling machines at tribal casinos.

Over the years, the number of slot-style machines allowed has been set in prolonged and controversial negotiations but if the latest deal is approved, the number of slots, approximately 28,000, would increase by 10% and then automatically increase as market demands dictate.

The cap could double over a decade or so but Chairman of the Washington Indian Gaming Association W. Ron Allen said that “the market is not growing that fast.”

Under the terms, the commission’s latest compacts with tribes would increase the statewide cap by 2,700 machines immediately.

Another increase of 1,350 could happen any year a casino opens, such as the Cowlitz tribe’s facility, after the Gambling Commission has reviewed the market and verified that there are fewer than 500 unused machines for lease.

The four lawmakers with five state Gambling Commission will vote on Feb 13 on whether to send the deal to Gov. Jay Inslee for approval.

One of those lawmakers, Republican Sen. Mike Hewitt of Walla Walla opposes allowing the number of machines to increase in perpetuity unless the tribes agree to share revenue. “In my opinion, this is probably the last shot we’ll ever get” to secure revenue sharing,” Hewitt said.

Amy Hunter, who leads the commission’s communications and legal division, said that the move doesn’t necessarily mean an end to negotiations. Tribes might want to update the kinds of machines allowed in casinos.

Hunter also added that the commission was able to secure full recovery of state cost for regulating the casinos, which has fall short with the current arrangement.

The deal includes 27 of 29 tribes in the state — all but the Puyallup and Muckleshoot.