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Native American casinos across Washington State that have been under stress during the coronavirus pandemic received a boost from state lawmakers when Gov. Jay Inslee signed bill House Bill 2638 (HB 2638) into law authorizing sports betting within their casinos.
Although it could take months for the new law to realistically go into effect and bring sports betting to the tribal casinos, it is a move that has been argued over in the state for years.
Although the law passed in bipartisan fashion the bill was waylaid by betting groups that own card rooms in the state. Maverick Gaming, a Nevada-based card room operator tried to argue that the bill would be unlawful in the state since it would make the tribal casinos immune to state-wide audits.
Mavericks CEO Eric Persson, a tribal member himself, tried to push his own bill that would be more favorable to people outside of tribal structures as well. Persson claimed that HB 2638 was effectively offering a monopoly to tribal casinos.
“The issue of sports betting is not just about commercial gaming and sovereign rights of Tribal governments, for which I have deep respect,” a statement from Persson said. “It is about how to create economic opportunities for all Washingtonians in Tribal and non-Tribal communities alike.”
House Bill 2638 (HB 2638) legalizes sports gambling in the states twenty-nine tribal casinos. The tribal casinos must first negotiate sports-gaming compacts with the state and the process may take months.
The bill states in its opening remarks that the states tribal casinos have a proven history of decades of responsible gambling in the state of Washington and this proven track record is what led to the decision to allow the tribes to operate sports wagering. There are twenty-nine tribes in Washington State, all of which will be eligible under the new law to operate sports betting at their locations.
The bill states that tribes that wish to may apply to have their class III gaming license modified to add sports wagering, and that all sports wagering must be done on tribal lands.
Although Persson originally seemed to suggest that he may bring a lawsuit to challenge the new law he seems to have walked back those statements. However, it may be prudent to look out on the horizon for any legal challenges to the new law as a lot of money is at stake for Maverick Gaming’s nineteen card rooms in the state.
One thing is certain, if Persson intends to bring a suit against this law the clock is ticking for the effectiveness of the potential suit since the longer the law is in effect the more likely it is that tribal interests will coalesce to defend it.
If you’re in Washington ad wanting to participate in the new sports betting that will be coming to the state then check out our guide on how to get started with sports betting!
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