Washington State Bill May Legalize Tribal Online Sports Betting

A bill recently introduced in Washington State would make sports betting legal. This includes online sports gambling. This likely comes as good news for Washington gamblers, since there are more than 30 tribal casinos in the state.

Majority Caucus Chair Eric Pettigrew’s (D-37) bill is not proposing to legalize full-scale internet sports gambling. Gamblers would have to be physically present at a casino facility to participate in betting. If the bill were successful, it will represent a drastic change for Washington. Washington is the only state in the US whose residents are currently committing a criminal act if they are gambling online.

In 2006, legislators in Washington passed an amendment that made anyone who “knowingly transmits or receives gambling information by telephone, telegraph, radio, semaphore, the Internet, a telecommunications transmission system, or similar means” guilty of committing a Class C felony.

The Toothless Law and What It Means

The Toothless LawThe Toothless Law means that, at least theoretically, the act of gambling on the internet could land Washington citizens up to five years in prison and a fine of $10,000. However, no one in the state has ever been prosecuted for gambling online. This would make anyone wonder why Washington legislation bothered passing a “toothless” amendment, or an amendment that has not technically been put into effect.

The bill, officially titled HB1975, won’t Free State residents from the theoretical liability for prosecution for internet gambling. However, it will provide an exception to the law for tribal casinos and the customers who gamble there. The law states: “ the legislature authorizes the transmission of gambling information over the internet for any sports wagering…provided that a wager may be placed and accepted only while the customer placing the wager is physically present on the premises of the gaming facility of the Indian tribe or tribal entity.”

More about the Bill

Chris Stearns of the Washington State Gambling Commission feels that, while the bill could appear limited in scope, there’s more about this bill that meets the eye. Stearns says “the bill doesn’t say very much, but the way federal Indian gaming law works is, just as long as the state permits something it opens the door for the tribes to operate based on what they negotiate. So, it may look limited, but it just opens the door to what the tribes can negotiate with the governor.”

In summary, legalized sports, gambling at the numerous tribal casinos in Washington will create a setting in which discussion about the expansion of commercial internet sports betting can occur.

Despite the fact that resistance to commercial casino gambling has long been opposed both online and on land, tribal casinos have been a winner for Washington State. Washington has the fourth highest number of Native American casinos in the United States after California, Oklahoma,  and Minnesota, which contribute hundreds of millions of dollars every year to state coffers.

History of Gambling In Washington State

gambling in casinoGambling has been both prevalent and controversial in Washington State. Casinos and gambling have had their difficulties in the area. Gambling has come a long way in Washington, and there has long been a discussion about online poker and its legalization.

It’s no secret that gambling has been a pastime nationally and internationally for hundreds. However, gambling regulation started in Washington as far back as 1898, when the Supreme Court ruled that gambling prohibition applied to charitable events as well.

Because of excessive bookmaking in 1909, horse race betting was banned as well. However, this process was again legalized in 1933. Five years later, slot machines were allowed for clubs that were private and not-for-profit.

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A Massachusetts native, blogger Angeline Everett grew up in the Allston neighborhood of Boston and earned a degree in casino management from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. After graduating, Angeline moved to Atlantic City where she joined the young team at the Borgata Casino as a compliance representative, while blogging on the side. After a few years in the back office, Angeline moved to the floor to work first at a casual poker dealer and later casual poker floor supervisor. Fascinated with games of chance since she was a child, Angeline currently divides her time between blogging and work on her first book.