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The Washington House quickly assembled to pass a sports betting bill that will allow the state’s tribal casinos to offer wagering to customers. The measure passed with ease by the count of 83 to 14, sending the bill to the Senate for possible passage.
HB-2638 was passed earlier last week by a House Appropriations Committee by the vote of 25-7. In a year with a reduced legislative session, bills such as the sports betting measure have been expedited in the hopes of passage by the Senate and gaining the signature of Gov. Jay Inslee.
The bill came to the committee with bipartisan support and sponsors of the legislation were hoping for quick passage in the House to keep HB-2638 on a fast timeline that could open betting in Washington by the end of 2020.
With the legislative session ending on March 13th, the small window provided to lawmakers has streamlined the process and enabled both chambers to come to quick agreements on the finer points of the bill.
Now that the House measure has been passed, the Senate must approve their own companion bill, SB 6394 by the March 13th deadline. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Strom Peterson believes that the quick turnaround on the sports betting legislation provides momentum to get the measure to the Governor’s desk by the end of the spring.
“Incredibly proud of the strong 83-14 bipartisan vote,” Peterson said. “We have found a good middle path that supports our tribal partners, allows adults to safely access sports betting and protects our youth.”
The House sports betting bill faced a challenge from a Nevada-based company known as Maverick Gaming LLC. The company protested sports betting going just to the tribal casinos and instead wanted to offer wagering in the card rooms they control in the state.
Rep. Peterson passed the bill within 48 hours from the committee’s vote and to circumvent the challenge from Maverick Gaming, he added an emergency amendment to the measure that blocked the legislation from needing a statewide referendum before becoming a law.
But lawmakers expect a legal challenge to the emergency amendment and Maverick has already issued a statement calling the “emergency” attachment to the bill frivolous and that there is no danger to the state’s citizens that require the special annotation to the legislation.
In the legal opinion by former Washington State Supreme Court Judge Philip A. Talmadge, released minutes after the bill passed the House, he wrote, “an emergency clause to this legislation, claiming that either bill is necessary for the immediate preservation of public peace, health, or safety is highly suspect and will only ensure lengthy litigation testing such a legislative assertion.”
Washington has 29 tribal casinos in the state and the bill would allow each establishment to offer on-site betting. The legislation turned down the overture from Maverick Gaming, instead of believing that the tribal casinos would be in a better position to offer a smooth process for easier regulation.
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