Legal Washington Sports Betting

On March 25, 2020, Washington passed ESHB 2638 to legalize sports betting at the state’s tribal casinos. The decision was surprising, as Washington has historically had some of the stricter sports gambling laws in the country, and many expected that the bill would be tabled until at least 2021 while lawmakers addressed the COVID-19 pandemic. While the legalization was momentous for state bettors, the first legal sportsbooks are likely almost a year away still. Other states have managed to launch legal sports betting within a few months of legalization, but doing do required a coordinated, Herculean effort that would be better spent on public health in 2020.

While people in the Evergreen State wait for state-licensed sports betting options to launch, there are still plenty of easy ways to bet on sports. International online sportsbooks like Bovada, SportsBetting, BetOnline, and 5Dimes, are fully licensed, legal, and regulated strictly by their country of origin. American players can freely bet at these sites with no fear of legal repercussions. They are safe, secure, and offer a world-class sports gambling experience.

Washington Indian tribes operate 28 land-based casinos which generate $3 billion in annual revenue, so adding sports betting to that portfolio should be hugely beneficial to the state from a financial standpoint. Although the revenue impact of sports betting will likely be small compared to more lucrative forms of casino gaming, revenues should increase tens of millions of dollars over what they would otherwise be. This will be a huge boon for Washington’s education system, which has levied gambling and lottery taxes to become one of the as one of the top 10 states in America for education.

In our guide we will discuss these topics and more so that prospective bettors have a solid understanding of legal Washington sports betting and everything it entails.

Is Land-Based Sports Betting Legal In Washington?

Washington currently allows land-based gambling in the form of a lottery games, bingo, table games, and more, but does not allow land-based sports betting, with a few minor exceptions for squares games, office pools and the like. Right now, the only legal sports betting options for Washington residents are online betting platforms, which are not subject to state gambling laws.

However, the state House of Representatives just passed a bill (HB 2638) that would authorize sports betting subject to the terms of pre-existing tribal gaming compacts. The version of the bill that passed in the House was referred to the Senate Committee on Labor & Commerce on February 17, 2020. In the house, HB 2638 passed by an overwhelming 83-14 margin, so the bill’s prospects for ratification in the Senate are strong. If everything goes as planned, the bill could be ratified as soon as late March or early April.

Yes, land-based sports betting is legal in Washington as of late March 2020. Both houses of Congress, along with Jay Inslee, approved ESHB 2638, which authorizes select facilities to apply for sports betting licenses. The only businesses eligible to apply for such a license are Washington’s 29 tribal casinos, as the state legislature wished to honor existing gaming compacts. For now, however, there are no land-based sports betting options in Washington.

The timeline for a full sports betting launch is unclear, but some time between late 2020 and mid-2021 is most likely, although the COVID-19 pandemic could delay things further. A gambling commission still needs to iron out the details for taxation and licensing fees before licenses can be issued, and that is likely a low priority. Once licenses are approved, casinos could either invest in their own technology, or partner with existing, more experienced sports betting firms like FanDuel and William Hill to run their sportsbooks.

Is Online Sports Betting Legal In Washington?

Yes, online sports betting is legal in Washington. ESHB 2638 does not permit online sportsbooks to operate in the state, but international online sportsbooks like Bovada fall outside of Washington’s jurisdiction. Washington bettors are free to register and play with these sites as long as they are at least 18 years old. State-licensed online betting is likely at least several years away, if not longer, as it was not included as part of ESHB 2638 and a competing bill that would have allowed online sports betting was shot down early in the legislative process. Once sportsbooks are up and running, bettors will be able to place bets on their phone, but only if they are physically present in a licensed tribal casino.

Where To Bet On Sports In Washington

For now, the only place to engage in legal Washington sports betting is at an online sportsbook as they all accept Washington bettors. Washington law prohibits gambling over the internet, but nobody has ever been arrested or charged with breaking this law. The law is more designed to deter sports betting operators than it is to punish individual bettors. Once the Washington government begins issuing sportsbook licenses, expect a good handful of the state’s 29 tribal casinos to apply for one.

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Where’s The Closest Place To Me To Bet?

There are plenty of places to bet in Washington if you like casinos – the Evergreen State has over two dozen tribal casinos that will happily take your money – so the question really out to be “where’s the closest place to me to bet on sports?” The closest brick-and-mortar sportsbooks are tribal casinos in Oregon for right now. If you don’t want to travel to other sports betting states to bet at a casino, there should be some operational brick-and-mortar sportsbooks in Washington sometime in 2021.

The wait is no big deal though, as legal online sportsbooks all offer better odds and more convenience than Sin City or other sports betting states have via features like live in-game betting, mobile betting odds, and so on), as well as 100% legality, being licensed and regulated in their home countries by the gaming authorities there. It’s no stretch to say that our most recommended legal Washington sports betting sites offer more to the gamer than anybody else in the industry.

Washington Sports Betting Sites

As we indicated throughout this guide, the best foreign-based sports betting websites are Bovada, BetOnline, SportsBetting, and 5Dimes. Each of these sites has its own advantages and special features, and keeping multiple sportsbook accounts open and active is something we fully endorse so you can make use of these perks (which range from different and compelling bonus offers to unique and sometimes complementary odds on the same game).

However, these sites are pretty much the only names in the game in town when it comes to a legal Washington sports betting option. The Evergreen State has thorough anti-gambling laws, and online gambling will not be permitted by the new law. That being said, all the offshore sports betting sites we recommend will accept Washington players, so actually placing a bet on the Huskies or the Seahawks is perfectly legal as long as you do it through the correct channels.

Washington Sports Betting And Gambling Laws

Washington sports betting and gambling laws are multitudinous and multiform. According to Washington’s Criminal Code, betting on sports via the Internet in the state is a Class C Felony. RCW 9.46.240 clearly states that it is illegal to knowingly transmit or receive gambling information over the Internet or by the use of “any similar means.” Furthermore, bookmaking is defined in RCW 9.46.0213, and if the authorities can prove illegal gambling activity took place, those found guilty could be looking at a fine of not more $10,000 and/or a prison sentence of up to five years.

Laws this explicit prove that Washington is not beating around the bush when it comes to its hardline stance on being an anti-gambling stronghold. However, these laws are on the books in order to keep organized criminals and other bad actors out of gambling, rather than to prevent individuals from wagering. International online gambling is completely legal, as the Wire Act and Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act do not prohibit players from using sites based outside of the United States. And the recent legalization of sports betting proves that Washington’s anti-gambling stance is softening.

What Teams Can I Bet On?

Washington is a state rife with solid pro and college teams on which residents of the state are interested in betting. Extremely strict gambling laws to the contrary, Washington residents’ enthusiasm for wagering on their home teams (primarily those based in and around Seattle, the most populous city) isn’t deterred in the slightest. That’s because with pro franchises like the Mariners, Seahawks, and Sounders Football Club (that’s soccer to us Americans), and elite collegiate programs like the Washington Huskies, the Washington State Cougars, and the Gonzaga Bulldogs, in the case of Washington, legal sports betting couldn’t be much better.

List Of Popular Washington Teams

Seattle Mariners – MLB Seattle Seahawks – NFL Seattle Sounders FC – MLS
Washington Huskies – NCAA Washington State Cougars – NCAA Gonzaga Bulldogs – NCAA

Horse Racing Betting In Washington

Washington’s horse racing industry isn’t as well-developed as some other states with a mature gambling industry, with the Evergreen State having only two tracks: Emerald Downs and Sun Downs, both located in the city of Auburn. You’ll only be able to engage in any live wagering on horse racing at those two tracks, but there are a dozen authorized off-track betting facilities at different gambling facilities around the state. Horse racing betting in Washington is overseen by the state’s dedicated Horse Racing Commission, and the Commission’s website lists the locations of all these pari-mutuel off-site betting sites.

Our recommended legal Washington sports betting sites also offer the option to bet on horse racing, but they have the advantage over their counterparts based in the Evergreen State. This is because of the fact that our foreign-operated legal online sportsbooks have odds on horse races taking place all over the world, not just in the state of Washington. That’s not even getting into the other advantages that sites like Bovada, SportsBetting, BetOnline, and 5Dimes have: online, you’ll get more comps, sports betting bonuses, and special event promotions than even the most long-standing and preeminent horse racing tracks and off-site pari-mutuel betting facilities in the US have to offer.

Daily Fantasy Sports In Washington

The Evergreen State has fairly permissive social gambling laws, all things considered, but state laws definitely crack down hard on daily fantasy sports (DFS). Seriously, playing daily fantasy sports in Washington is a no-go, and that’s because the state is the only one in the entire US that absolutely, unequivocally puts the kibosh on DFS to the extent that it does. The state’s attorney general’s office has gone so far as to arrest, charge, and prosecute an individual running a NASCAR fantasy sports operator back in 2011.

The Washington State Gambling Commission issued a statement back in ’11 after David Watkins (the owner and operator of the Fantasy Thunder site) was arrested that basically asserts that DFS is a game of chance and is thusly prohibited under state law, according to RCW 9.46.0225. This flies in the face of the federal UIGEA, which classifies DFS as a game of skill, even though players are eligible to win monetary rewards and there is certainly cross-shopping between fantasy contests and sports betting. A bill to legalize DFS in Washington was put forward during the 2015 legislative session but it wasn’t passed, despite some earnest interest from the state’s Gaming Commission.

Legal Sports Betting in Washington – Outlook for 2020

Now that HB 2638 has passed in the Senate and House and the governor has signed it into law, legal sports betting appears to be in great shape moving forward. Maverick Gaming, a company based in Nevada, has already announced that they plan to sue Washington over the passage of the bill, which could present a hurdle in launching sports betting. The biggest hurdle will undoubtedly be COVID-19 though. Under normal circumstances, a sportsbook launch usually occurs within a year of sports betting legalization, but these are far from normal circumstances. It would be shocking if Washington saw its first sportsbooks launch before March 2021.

Legal Washington Sports Betting FAQs

Can I Bet Real Money On Sports In Washington?

You can bet real money on sports in Washington, but more importantly, you can win real money – but only if you’re good at picking winners, of course. There are no land-based locations to bet real money yet, but global online sportsbooks are fair game. You can deposit with these sites using cryptocurrency, wire transfers, or traditional debit/credit cards. Unfortunately, you can’t withdraw money directly onto a payment card. This is a result of the prohibitions placed on financial institutions that keep them from processing transactions related to online gambling.

Is Online Sports Betting Safe In Washington?

Online sports betting is safe in Washington, even if in most forms it isn’t strictly speaking legal in the state. That’s because our top picks – Bovada, SportsBetting, BetOnline, and 5Dimes – have to go through intense security checks in order to qualify for licensing by their home countries’ gaming authorities. Because these legal sports betting sites have to comply with these extremely strict regulations, it should give players and account holders a feeling of security knowing that they are dealing with a professional service and not an unauthorized black market bookie. Users can rest assured that their personal and financial information is safe at our recommended legal Washington sports betting websites.

Will Sports Betting In Washington Ever Be Legal?

Sports betting is now legal in Washington, although there are no licensed sportsbooks in the state yet. Betting online with an international sportsbook is completely legal, however, and is a great option for players looking to fill the gap while they wait for the full launch of state-licensed sports betting.

Will I Get Arrested For Sports Betting In Washington?

No, nobody has ever been arrested for betting on sports in Washington. Now that sports betting is legal nationwide, there is even less incentive than normal for drastic law enforcement action against individual bettors. The only way you’ll get arrested while betting on sports is if you’re betting while doing something else illegal, like stealing a car or robbing a bank.

What Is the Sports Betting Age In Washington?

Our top picks among online sportsbooks only require users to be a minimum age of 18 years old to bet on sports at their sites. The bill does not specify a legal sports gambling age, so it will presumably be at the discretion of the casinos hosting the sportsbooks. Most casinos in Washington require that patrons be at least 21, but there are a few that allow 18-year-olds.

Are There Mobile Sports Betting Apps Available In Washington?

Not only are there mobile sports betting apps available in Washington, they are some of the best sports betting apps available anywhere on the Internet. Here’s the catch (if you want to think about it as a catch): You can’t download sports betting apps for these sites from the App Store or via Google Play. Instead, you have to use the “web app” experiences provided by these sites via your mobile browser. However, this isn’t really a downside when you consider the extra attention to detail this affords the developers of these mobile sports betting apps, allowing them to make fully streamlined products for their end-users without any corporate Apple/Google oversight. The leading legal sports betting sites have fully embraced the smartphone revolution, so it behooves smart bettors to fully embrace these mobile sports betting apps.

Where Is The Best Place To Bet On Sports In Washington?

There aren’t any retail operators with sportsbooks yet, so sports betting websites are the best legal option for players right now. Some of the greatest internet sportsbooks to join are BetOnline, Bovada, SportsBetting, 5Dimes, BetDSI, BookMaker, and MyBookie to name a few.

Should I Use A Local Bookie In Washington?

It is not advisable to use a local bookie in the state. The reason being, sports betting on its own is illegal, making the business that the bookie is offering illegal as well. Placing wagers with someone that is running an illegal operation is not the smartest decision. They could take your money without honoring the wager and there is no recourse for it as you participated knowingly. It is best to stick to offshore internet sportsbooks. While they remain a gray area based on legalities, they are licensed and regulated to operate and will never stiff you on potential winnings.

Do Any Casinos In Washington Have Sports Betting?

Although land-based sports betting is legal in Washington, no casinos offer operational sportsbooks yet. The timeline for when they will launch is murky, but early-to-mid-2021 is the most likely estimate. There are plenty of online sports betting options for Washington players, but none that are operated by Washington casinos.  

Can I Bet On Sports With My Friends In Washington?

Yes, you can bet on sports with your friends either by making bets with them individually or by using online mobile sports betting sites together. The law does not expressly prohibit or permit these actions, but nobody has ever been arrested in Washington for betting on sports with their friends. Betting on sports in a pool using the “square” method is also allowed, according to RCW 9.46.0335. The square method is that method of sports betting wherein a board is divided up into 100 equal squares, each constituting a chance to win in the sports pool and each person in the pool pays an entry of $1 or less. Social card games for money are also allowed explicitly, per RCW 9.46.0351.

When Will Sports Betting Launch In Washington State?

Sports betting is now legal in Washington, but it will likely be many months before the first Washington sportsbooks open their doors to the public. With the COVID-19 crisis obstructing things even further, expect additional delays prior to launch. The most optimistic estimate would place launch time in early 2021, while a more realistic estimate would be closer to the start of the 2021 NFL season. There are 29 tribal casinos in Washington, but it is unclear how many would offer sports betting.

How Many Sportsbooks Are In Washington State?

Right now, there are zero retail sportsbooks in Washington. There could be as many as 29 once licensing fees and policies are established, as there are 29 tribal casinos operated by 22 different tribes in Washington. There are numerous online sportsbooks available to Washington residents, but these don’t really qualify as “sportsbooks in Washington.”