The Senate Labor & Commerce Committee heard a bill that would legalize sports betting in Washington.

  • A hearing at the Senate Labor & Commerce Committee took place to hear bill WA HB 2638 to legalize sports betting in Washington.
  • This bill has passed through the House and moved onto the Senate making the idea of legal gambling on sporting events in the Evergreen State more of a reality than ever.
  • Cardrooms, which are not included within the bill say they could bring in an annual $50 million if they were allowed to open sports betting lounges.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Sports Betting bill WA HB 2638 was heard by the Senate Labor & Commerce Committee Monday.

This bill received its first reading in the Senate on February 17 after passing through the House on February 13. In six weeks’ time it’s made its way to the Senate as its been slowly climbing its way into approval.

WA HB 2638

Bill WA HB 2638 is the companion bill to WA SB 6394. It’s been said that how well the House bill does will determine how far the Senate bill will move. Currently, the Senate bill is waiting to be heard by the Senate Ways & Means Committee.

WA HB 2638 would legalize sports betting in the state of Washington through Tribal operators. This bill, sponsored by Representative Strom Peterson (D-Edmonds) would make land-based casinos open for sports betting.

No mobile or internet platforms would be legalized with WA HB 2638 unless it’s on Tribal ground in the future.

The Hearing

The hearing at the Senate Labor & Commerce Committee had a number of speakers about the legalization of the bill. Peterson was there to field questions about his bill. Representative Curtis King (R) asked:

“Is there a reason why you feel cardrooms shouldn’t participate?”

 

“If we keep expansion small to start, this is a good middle, narrow path to take this on to see how the citizens of Washington react,” responded Peterson.

The opposition was heard by the card room businesses of Washington that are not included within the bill to expand their businesses to sportsbooks. Among them was Maverick Gaming, who has spoken out about a potential lawsuit should WA HB 2638 become legal on the grounds that it’s moving so quickly through an emergency clause, when in fact, the issue of gaming expansion is not an emergency.

Representatives at the hearing from Maverick said they believe the reason there is an emergency clause on this bill “Is simply meant to stop the public from weighing in.” While all other gambling businesses spoke against making WA HB 2638 a law, the Tribal community spoke in favor of it.

Again, Representative King posed the question as to why card rooms in the state could not be included.

Representatives from the Tribes stated that the reason that commercial businesses are not included within the bill is that the bill and their gaming-compacts have to sync up in order to work. To get their Tribal gaming compacts in order, they need this type of bill to back them up.

However, the Tribes are not against the state adding commercial businesses to the sports betting market as it is their prerogative to do so. Should Washington want to include all gaming businesses for sports betting, it was said they could surely amend the bill once it became law.

The End Game

The Legislative session in the Evergreen State ends on March 13. With three weeks left, Washington needs to come to a decision on whether there will be legal sports betting in the state in 2020. Peterson has said that should gambling on sporting events not become legal this year, the progress that has been made has paved the way for legalization in the future.

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