New bi-partisan bill proposes expansion of sports betting outside tribal casinos in Washington state

A State Senate committee will hold a public hearing Thursday morning on a bill that could expand sports gambling in Washington state.

The bill would make sports betting legal in card rooms and race tracks – and not just on tribal land. Last March, Washington became the 25th state to legalize sports betting – but it was limited to doing so at tribal casinos.

This year, the momentum seems to be in Eric Persson’s corner. As CEO of Maverick Gaming, which owns 19 of 43 card rooms in the state, Persson’s effort to garner support for sports betting outside tribal casinos last year fell flat. But a new revised bill – this time with bi-partisan and labor union support – is promising an influx of tax revenue at a time when the state could use it the most.

"We think that if you have sports betting in the state of Washington, offered commercially in tax, it could generate around $50 million in annual tax revenue," Persson said.

But the Washington Indian Gaming Association disagrees.

"Even in a mature market, I wouldn’t anticipate seeing this kind of benefit to the state," said Rebecca George, the association’s executive director.

"In a time, especially during COVID, where we were disproportionately impacted, it’s interesting to me that there’s a proposal before the legislature that’s being considered that would impact tribal self-sufficiency. I think that the money that the minor tax benefit this could bring to the state would have lasting impacts into poor communities."

The bill would limit the expansion of sports betting to existing card rooms. George and opponents contend that the language of the bill allows for mobile betting from anywhere in the state. But supporters confirm it will be confined to on-site betting only.

"The unemployment rate looks entirely different than it looked last year," Persson said. "And sports betting would probably provide around 10 jobs per location. And right now, there’s I think there’s 43 card rooms.

And whatever happens during this legislative session, Persson remains undeterred.

"Next year, we’re gonna have even more support just as more mayors and more city council, more state legislators are signing on," Persson said.

"Give us another year, you’ll see what happens. Maverick Gaming is here to stay. I’m from Washington. This is my home. This is my company, and we’re gonna keep pounding on the door until sports betting is legalized."