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Washington State in the Race to Be The Next to Legalize Sports Betting

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Washington State in the Race to Be The Next to Legalize Sports Betting
Washington State Capitol in Olympia, Washington. David Ryder/Getty Images/AFP

The race to become the next state to officially launch a legal sports betting platform is on. Upwards of nine states are vying for the distinction with all hoping to be live by the start of the NFL season September 9. Washington State, although they have a few regulatory hurdles to clear is very much in the hunt with what looks like a “limited” sports betting platform.

It was on Wednesday that the scope of Washington’s attempt to bring about their legal sports betting platform came to light. On that date, the Washington State Gambling Commission voted 4-0 in favor of the new set of rules that would govern a sports betting scene.

“This vote by the Gambling Commission means Washington State tribes remain on track to be able to go live with sports betting on the premises of tribal casinos in the near future,” Rebecca George, Executive Director of the Washington Indian Gaming Association said. “We applaud the effort and work that the Gambling Commission and its staff have put into keeping this process moving forward in a timely and responsible way, and we are pleased that it appears that interested adults in Washington State will soon be able to place wagers on sporting events in a safe and responsible way.”

A Little History

The idea of sports betting legalization has been around a while in Washington State. Lawmakers originally approved a platform in March 2020, but obvious COVID limitations slowed the process down. In June of this year, the next step was taken by Governor Jay Inslee when he was able to renegotiate crucial tribal compacts that would pave the way for an expansion of the state’s gambling industry.

After June 12 came a 45-day process in which the US Department of the Interior has to approve the wording of the new compacts. We are currently in that process right now. 45 days ends August 26 which puts Washington on track to be live by the NFL season.

There has been widespread support in Washington State among citizens, lawmakers, sports betting providers and the state’s pro sports teams. Legalization will be a revenue generator that nobody is seeming to ignore.

Rebecca George commented that: “Tribal sports betting will boost our economy and generate much-needed revenue to fund important services for communities across Washington.”

The One Change

Through all of the regulatory hurdles and the vote last week, the rules for the Washington legal sports betting platform have remained basically the same with one exception. There was a $20,000 reduction in the license fees for major vendors hoping to get a piece of the Washington scene.

Other then that, most rules remain status quo, including the one that limits mobile sports betting to tribal lands. That means both retail and mobile betting will have to take place at the tribal casinos, and their immediate surrounding area only.

Washingtonians will still be able to bet on global pro sports, college sports (minus the in-state teams) international sports including the Olympics and eSports as long as they stay on tribal property.

Commission chair Bud Sizemore went on record last week saying: “I think legal sports wagering is a benefit to the citizens of Washington and we are getting rid of the black market, so good work everyone.”

Expectations

The smart money is on Washington State having a legal sports betting platform in time for September 9 and the Thursday Night kickoff of the NFL season. Once the US Department of the Interior has their say, it expected the process will dramatically speed up.

Just how lucrative the Washington State scene will be is up in the air, especially considering the limitations their adopted mobile platform presents. Mobile has been the dominant form of betting in the US with Heavyweight states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania counting on about 90% of their impressive monthly handles coming from internet-based bets.

That said, competition in the market figures to be fierce. Betfred, BetMGM, Caesars Sportsbook, the two DFS giants/ sports betting provider behemoths, and Rush Street Interactive have already requested and received pre-licensing packages and other top-end providers are also expected to jump in on the scene.

Limited or not, a Washington legal sports betting platform looks as though it is just a couple months away from reality. All eyes will be on the Evergreen State to see if their desire to become a legal sports betting jurisdiction indeed becomes a reality. And after that, it will be interesting to see how the market consisting of 7.6 million residents performs