Washington State Capitol Building

  • Senate Bill 5212, which would legalize commercial sports betting in Washington, had its first reading on Thursday.
  • The legislation projects at least $50 million in yearly revenue from a sports betting market under this proposal.
  • The Washington State Legislature adjourns in April where a decision will need to be made on WA SB 5212.

OLYMPIA, Wash.A new sports betting bill for Washington was presented to the Senate Labor, Commerce & Tribal Affairs Committee on Thursday that would legalize commercial sportsbooks in the state.

In the 2020 session, Tribal sports wagering was made legal much to the opposition of commercial sportsbook operators and that opposition has spilled over into the 2021 session with the introduction of this bill.

Senate Bill 5212 is being backed by Maverick Gaming, the Nevada-based company that runs many of the commercial gaming venues in the state of Washington.

Senate Bill 5212

WA SB 5212 had its first official reading in the Committee after having its introduction in January. No votes on the bill were taken after the hearing.

The proposal could be read two more times on the same floor for discussions before a decision by way of vote will need to be made to either move it forward to the next Committee or have it stall out.

Maverick said in 2020 that they would fight to enter the legal sports betting market if it was not made into an all-inclusive industry in Washington. They’ve made good on their word with this proposal.

If legalized, Senate Bill 5212 could bring much more revenue from sports betting to the Evergreen State than that of a strictly Tribal gaming market. The company has also promised the addition of at least 200 more jobs should their businesses expand into offering sports wagering at their locations.

“This is about fairness,” said Senator Curtis King, (R-Yakima), a sponsor of the bill. “We need to share the wealth. We need to take care of the state of Washington as well.”

The Nevada company claims that allowing their 19 card rooms in the state could produce at least $50 million with sports betting revenue for the state. Lawmakers believe that figure is wildly exaggerated, not believing that more than $4 million a year could be made with legalizing WA SB 5212. This is what was discussed on Thursday.

Each commercial operator would be charged a fee of $100,000 for a license with a 10% tax rate on all GGR. Already licensed cardrooms and horse racing tracks would be the only locations eligible in the state to enter the sports wagering industry under this bill. No Washington college sporting events would be open for wagers nor would high school, esports, or competitive video game tournaments be eligible for bets.

The Opposition

Opposition is already being heard by the Tribes in Washington. Their legal sports betting market has not yet gone live as the Evergreen State is still negotiating Tribal Gaming Compacts with various Tribes. Once all terms have been agreed upon across the board, these sportsbooks will be launched. Until then, there was much to be said about commercial sports wagering businesses trying to enter the market by the Tribes on Thursday.

“This is our tax base,” said Rebecca George, director of the Washington Indian Gaming Association. “It’s irresponsible for the Legislature to allow sports betting to the benefit of out-of-state people.”

Looking Ahead

Profits made at Tribal gaming locations help fund their communities. They believe Maverick is just trying to help their company thrive on an out-of-state basis and not really looking to contribute to the state of Washington as they’re claiming.

The Washington State Legislature will convene for the year on April 25 and a decision will be made by then on this proposal. However, no date has been scheduled for a second reading of Senate Bill 5212 yet.

Either way, legal Tribal sports betting in the state of Washington is expected to launch by the end of 2021.

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