Washington State lawmakers are in the process of reviewing two sports gambling bills – one in the House and one in the Senate – in hopes of reaching a successful conclusion this year. If approved, tribal casinos in the state would be able to set up their sportsbooks and start receiving some of the revenue that is currently being wagered on offshore sites. After a meeting yesterday by one House committee to discuss one of the bills, things are starting to look good for an eventual approval, and it’s possible that sports gambling in the state could be ready by this spring.
The Seattle Times reports that the House appropriations committee voted yesterday on House Bill 2638 (HB 2638), and the response was overwhelmingly positive. When the committee members entered their votes, 25 said yes, while only seven said no. With such a great response, chances are extremely high that the bill will quickly make its way to a vote by the full House, where it should receive the same reaction.
Representative Strom Peterson sponsored the bill, and is also confident that the House will sign off on it. He explained after the vote was held last night, “I’m hoping to get this moving over to the Senate on a relatively fast timeline. We’ll see if that happens, but with a very bi-partisan vote that we just had this evening, I think that helps.” He added that the vote would simply be “a formality” and expects to “get it on to the floor next week.”
If the House members say yes, and if Senate members say yes to Senate Bill 6394 (SB 6394), the counterpart to HB 2638, all that would be left is for Governor Jay Inslee to give his approval. As long as the bills don’t lose any momentum, there’s a chance that it could reach his desk before the legislative session ends. This doesn’t leave much time, though, as the current session is scheduled to run only through March 12.
The ranking Republican of the House appropriations committee, Drew Stokesbary might be able to help with that. He fully supports the bill and might be able to help ensure it moves through the legislative obstacle course quickly. Just ahead of yesterday’s vote, in showing his position on the subject, he stated, “This is a reasonable middle ground. I think it threads the needle nicely. It permits adults who are responsible to engage in an activity that doesn’t harm other people. But it doesn’t make it so prevalent or so pervasive in our society that we as a legislature have to worry about the morality and ethics of that.”
As always, the idea of legalized sports gambling in the state has drawn negativity, as well. Most notably, gaming operator Maverick Gaming, which has card rooms in Washington, wants in on the action. IT has been lobbying for votes to be postponed so the market can be studied further, but the tribes have an edge. They have been the state’s gambling partners for over 30 years and have a solid foundation upon which to build. The chairman of the Puyallup tribe explains that the tribes have regulated their casinos “in a safe, controlled and fair manner,” adding, “The legislation benefits all of Washington because tribal gaming benefits tribal and non-tribal communities alike. You know us. This is our shared homeland. We live here. We work here. We invest our resources here in Washington. And we ask that you adopt an approach to sports betting that maximizes the benefits to people and communities here in Washington.”