Washington state sports betting 2020: Latest on legal gambling options

Washington state sports betting 2020: Latest on legal gambling options

In early 2020, the Washington state legislature passed a bill to legalize sports betting solely in the state’s tribal casinos. On March 25, Gov. Jay Inslee signed ESHB 2638 into law as the Evergreen State became the first state in 2020 to legalize sports wagering. No bets have been taken yet in Washington, but that may soon change if the coronavirus pandemic slows down.

Online Gambling Washington Laws

It’s important for Washington to get sports betting up-and-running as soon as possible because the state is surely losing a ton of money to southern neighbor Oregon, which is taking sports bets.

In addition, with the recent news that California likely will not start taking sports wagers until 2020, Washington could be a tourist mecca for Californians looking to bet and those not wanting to deal with the heat and overcrowding in Las Vegas.

However, Washington’s betting law is among the least customer-friendly in the country. There is no mobile component and wagering is only allowed at tribal casinos. On the flip side, Oregon does have mobile betting so some Washingtonians may simply choose to drive south.

Those two are the only Western states with legalized betting since PASPA was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in the summer of 2018.

Washington Sports Betting Legislation

Four Washington state tribes — the Tulalip, Suquamish, Snoqualmie and Kalispel — have begun negotiations with the state to launch sports betting. They must first navigate the regulatory details with the state Gambling Commission.

Kevin Zenishek, executive director of casino operations for the Kalispel Tribe’s Northern Quest Casino near Spokane, had previously said his casino hoped launch sports betting in time for the NFL season but that the coronavirus has changed things.

“I have a goal (to launch) by the end of the year,” he said in an interview with the NW News Network this week. “But even that might be a little ambitious.”

Needless to say, other potential sports betting operators in the state are not happy with the decision to limit betting only to the tribes and there could be lawsuits coming.

However, the legislature was clear on that point in ESHB 2638: “It has long been the policy of this state to prohibit all forms and means of gambling except where carefully and specifically authorized and regulated. … Tribes have more than twenty years’ experience with, and a proven 14 track record of, successfully operating and regulating gaming facilities in accordance with tribal gaming compacts.”

There are currently 29 federally-recognized tribal casinos in Washington. The state government will not share in the profits from sports betting.

Washington Sports Wagering

The minimum gambling age is 18 in Washington but 21 if the establishment sells alcohol. Bettors don’t need to be from the state to wager since there’s no mobile element – just like bettors in Las Vegas casinos don’t need to be from Nevada.

Washington’s sports betting law allows wagering on all professional sports, overseas leagues and Olympic and soccer competitions. Players can wager on college football and basketball but not on in-state schools like the University of Washington or Washington State, both of which play in the Pac-12.

The Huskies are annual contenders for the Pac-12 title in football and won the Pac-12 championship as recently as 2018. UW did lose future Hall of Fame coach Chris Petersen to retirement after last season’s disappointing 8-5 mark. He has been replaced by defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake, who has to pick a starting quarterback to replace Jacob Eason. Washington is a +350 favorite on the moneyline odds at William Hill sportsbook to win the 2020 Pac-12 title.

Washington State has never reached the Pac-12 Championship Game and also lost its very successful head coach after last season in Mike Leach, now at Mississippi State. He was replaced by Hawaii’s Nick Rolovich.

The NFL’s Seahawks haven’t had a losing record since Russell Wilson was drafted and are Super Bowl 55 contenders again in 2020. MLB’s Seattle Mariners are rebuilding.

There is no NBA team in Seattle, but expect that to change by the end of the decade if not sooner because an NHL expansion team (yet to be named) will start play in the 2021-22 hockey season.

One of the reasons Seattle lost the NBA’s SuperSonics was the poor condition of KeyArena and the fact the city wouldn’t pay for renovations. That has since changed, with KeyArena essentially rebuilt from scratch for nearly $1 billion and now called Climate Pledge Arena per naming rights bought by local behemoth Amazon. Seattle’s NHL team could easily share the arena with an expansion NBA franchise.

Seattle does have a WNBA franchise, the Storm, and a very successful MLS franchise, the Sounders.  

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