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Sports Betting in Washington State Unlikely to Launch This Year

Sports betting in Washington State is unlikely to go live this year, the state’s Gambling Commission has warned. 

The vertical was legalized in March, after House Bill 2638 (HB2638) was approved by Governor Jay Inslee. 

Once sports betting is allowed to go live, all 29 of the Evergreen State’s federally-recognized tribes will be permitted to launch their own sportsbook. 

However, the Washington State Gambling Commission (WSGC) has said that it’s more “realistic” to expect that the market will launch next year.

“We are only one agency” 

Since sports betting was approved in Washington State three months ago, four tribes have already started looking at amending their gaming compacts. Meanwhile, an additional two have put forward requests to change what’s included in theirs. 

WSGC Director David Trujillo urged for patience to be practised, due to the lengthy process of agreement renegotiations. 

Alongside the time that it takes to amend compacts, Trujillo is strained for resources at the moment. In addition to working with the WSGC, he is also serving as a captain for the National Guard. 

In a statement, Trujillo had the following to say.

“I think we all agree that we want sports betting to be beneficial… and that any ills are mitigated.

“We want the process to move as quickly as possible, but the reality is that we are only one agency.

We are not sitting idly by, we are dedicating our staff to show lawmakers that we are worthy of this role.”

He also said that the WSGC is aiming to be “realistic, even if realism is not what people want to hear”. 

What else is causing the delay?

In addition to Trujillo currently serving with the National Guard, the state has other complexities to deal with. The WSGC is in the process of discussing requirements related to regulation and licensing, with five workgroups set up to talk about sports gambling. 

The Commission must also determine how enforcement and problem gambling will be addressed. Both of these, as well as the above, must be reviewed and approved before sports betting in Washington State can officially launch. 

Commissioners met on Tuesday, but did not discuss the launch of sports betting. This is because they have nothing to consider until compacts are renegotiated. 

Other practicalities of sports betting in Washington State

22 of the state’s 29 recognized tribes operate 29 casinos between them. For each of those 22 tribes already offering gambling, the state must sit down with all of them and discuss each of their compacts. After this, settlements must be reached for all of them before any further progression can be made. 

It’s worth noting that while sports betting has been passed into law, this only counts for land-based offerings. Online sportsbooks have not been permitted at the moment. Betting on college games is allowed, but these must not involve teams that play their home games in the northwesterly state. 

Ahead of the launch of sports betting in Washington State, whenever that may be, the WSGC has been given a loan of $6 million for enforcement purposes. In Tuesday’s meeting, it was reiterated twice that this money will need to be paid back by the end of the year – with interest added.

Brian Considine, Legal and Legislative Manager for the WSGC, has hinted that the Commission may ask for either a payback extension or a forgiveness. This is due to the impact of COVID-19; the agreement was made prior to the shutdown of US casinos. 

Considine also mentioned that some clarity may need to be made for certain sports – including eSports. However, he did not specify what about the definition for this might be amended. 

Currently, eSports is defined as:

“A live event or tournament attended or watched by members of the public where games or matches are contested in real time by players and teams and players or teams can win a prize based on their performance in the live event or tournament.”

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