Washington Lawmakers Seeking to Push Through Mobile Betting in 2021

Washington state lawmakers introduced a new bill last week that would legalize mobile betting and retail sports betting at Washington state card rooms and horse racetracks. If this new proposal is passed during the 2021 legislative session, the new gambling laws will help close the budget gap that was created from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Current Sports Betting Measures

Washington has a big tribal gaming history. There are 29 tribal casinos in Washington that are operated by 22 different tribes.

Sports betting became legal in the state in March of 2020, when Governor Jay Inslee signed HB 2638 into effect on March 25. This bill allowed for legal sports betting at tribal casinos.

There is currently no mobile sports betting allowed in any capacity. If you want to place a sports wager at a tribal casino, it must be done at a retail sportsbook.

The state is profiting from these brick-and-mortar sportsbooks. However, widespread mobile gambling and extra retail sportsbooks would only help the state. This new bill will bring extra revenue to help combat the pandemic in the state.

Past Attempts at Mobile Betting

In 2020, Washington Representative Brandon Vick introduced a bill to the House of Representatives. Last year’s bill was similar to the 2021 legislation proposed by Senators Curtis King, Marko Liias, and Claire Wilson.

The 2020 bill would’ve legalized widespread mobile betting and retail betting at card rooms and horse racetracks. It would’ve cost online operators $500,000 to apply.

After approval, the annual tax rate on gaming revenue was slated to be 10%. Each brick-and-mortar sportsbook would’ve received one mobile skin.

There wasn’t enough bi-partisan support for this bill to pass. Tribal nations also didn’t support the proposed changes because they didn’t want to give up their sports betting monopoly.

The bill had the potential to hurt tribal nations, but the state would’ve seen a much larger tax revenue stream. Tribes use sports betting as a way to attract bettors to their properties.

The 2021 Bill

The 2021 bill, SB 5212, was read in the Senate on Jan. 14. It was assigned to the Senate Labor, Commerce, and Tribal Affairs Committee, but it won’t be discussed for a week.

SB 5212 has a better chance of passing than HB 2638 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 has put a dent in Washington’s economy, so lawmakers are coming together to hopefully pass this bill.

This year’s bill is similar to 2020 with some slight changes. SB 5212 calls for widespread mobile betting as well as retail books at state card rooms and horse racetracks. The tax rate would still be 10%, which is very low.

College teams in Washington would be off-limits. The application fee would only be $100,000 compared to $500,000 last year.

There would be a yearly fee, but this number hasn’t been set just yet. The legal betting age in the state would be 18 years of age.

With a 10% tax, Washington should attract a lot of online operators to the state. All the financial gains yielded from the proposed bill would go towards COVID-19 relief in the state.

Alex Payton is a sports betting writer that has a wide range of experience in the industry. He covers plenty of topics and never misses the chance to take the Louisville Cardinals.

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