Washington sports betting delayed until 2021

  • According to the Washington State Gambling Commission, sports betting odds likely won’t be available in Washington until 2021.
  • There are a number of regulatory hurdles that need to be cleared prior to launch, including renegotiated tribal gaming compacts and comprehensive rules and regulations.
  • Washington is also still contending with its status as one of the nation’s epicenters of the COVID-19 pandemic, which could delay regulatory efforts.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – The Washington Legislature approved HB 2638 to legalize sports betting back in March, but now it looks as if the first legal Washington sportsbooks will not launch until 2021.

As in Oklahoma, the main issue at hand is the renegotiation of tribal gaming compacts under the new law.

Both tribal gaming groups and the Washington government want to maximize the value they receive from legal sports betting, so negotiating for new compacts could be a time-consuming process.

Once new compacts are negotiated, it will take time for tribal casinos to install the infrastructure needed to support retail sports betting as well.

All this uncertainty is compounded by the fact that Washington is one of the U.S. epicenters of the novel coronavirus pandemic and lawmakers already have their hands full addressing the mounting public health crisis.

All facets of regulation and implementation of sports betting must be reviewed and approved by state-appointed working groups before sportsbooks will be able to launch.

The Washington State Gambling Commission (WGC) did not preclude the possibility of a 2020 sports betting launch but indicated that 2021 is a more “realistic” target.

Estimating When Washington Sports Betting Will Launch

There are 22 different tribal gaming groups in Washington operating 29 total retail casinos.

Several tribes have been proactive about renegotiating their gaming compacts to prepare for an early sports betting launch, but there are many moving parts involved in the process of launching sports betting, and all of them seem to be moving at different speeds.

The biggest hurdle to clear right now is the coronavirus. Different counties throughout Washington are in different states of mitigation and recovery, but casinos likely will not be able to reopen until the medical community deems it safe.

Since sportsbooks presumably won’t be able to launch prior to the 2020 NFL season, the next biggest target for a launch date will be March Madness 2021, although it remains to be seen how COVID-19 might affect the 2020-2021 college basketball season.

Unfortunately, given the turmoil currently facing the entire state, a summer 2021 launch seems more realistic.

The good news is that a vaccine for the coronavirus should be ready for worldwide deployment sometime in late 2021, which could help facilitate a more seamless launch for legal sports betting in Washington.

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