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Washington Governor Signs Sports Betting Bill ESHB2638

WA State Map

Things on the gambling front have been quite slow where the United States and 2020 is concerned. However, we all knew that it couldn’t possibly be long before there was some news other than that relating to COVID-19. That news comes straight out of Washington State, where a sports betting bill has just been signed into law by Governor Jay Inslee.

This makes Washington the first state in 2020 to legalize sports betting (and will hopefully lead the way for other states to follow suit). But could there be trouble brewing on the horizon where card rooms are concerned?

Washington Passes Sports Betting Bill

What Does the Bill Provide?

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By signing the new sports betting bill, Governor Inslee will allow for land-based sports betting to take place within Washington’s tribal casinos. Noticeable by their absence from the bill are both the state’s card rooms and online betting sites. The bill also does not treat with online poker sites or casinos either. This leaves tribal casinos with the monopoly on providing sports betting in the state for the moment, and Washington doesn’t have any commercial casinos alongside these.

Jay InsleeWashington Governor Jay Inslee Signed the Sports Betting Bill Into Law

The bill, ESHB 2638, which was officially signed into law on March 25, 2020, saw Washington become the 21st of the 50 states to legalize sports betting, and potentially, Maryland and South Dakota won’t be far behind. In total, there are 35 tribal casinos based within the state of Washington, and through the signing of the bill, the state has the authority to renegotiate the current gaming compacts in order to allow sports betting to take place at all of them.

Speaking of the bill on the day he had put his signature to it, Inslee said that it will “allow people to participate in a new gaming activity that is safe and well-regulated.”

It comes as a bit of a blow to those bettors who have designs on participating in sports betting online though. While internet wagering isn’t specifically catered to in the new bill, a mobile app will be available while in one of the tribal casinos. Through it, sports betting can take place.

Yet, of course, you need to be inside one of the 35 casinos for it to work. Therefore, you cannot place mobile sports bets from anywhere else other than those locations.

Bill Faces Backlash from Cardrooms

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Washington hasn’t specifically had the greatest history with gambling bills and laws, but ESHB 2638 managed to easily make its way through both chambers of the legislature. In the House, a margin of 83-14 was recorded, while in the Senate it received a 34-15 vote. Yet, despite such strong support for the bill and the signature of the Governor, it’s looking very unlikely that it will be implemented anytime soon.

Almost half of the state’s cardrooms are owned by one and the same company – Maverick Gaming LLC, which bases itself out of Nevada. Due to the fact that cardrooms were not included in the bill as being locations where sports betting can take place, it’s likely that Maverick will be looking to challenge the signing of it into law.

The bill first passed through legislature in February, and at that point, Maverick made it clear that its plans going forward were to challenge any momentum that it garnered. It owns a total of 19 cardrooms in Washington, and the company strongly believes that it should be able to provide sports betting in all of those establishments alongside the tribal casinos.

Emergency Clause Added to Bill

One of the bill’s sponsors, Democrat Representative Strom Peterson, made sure to add an emergency clause into it, which blocks the need for a statewide referendum in November. If this clause hadn’t been added to the bill, then potentially it wouldn’t have been approved. In those circumstances, it would have been necessary for a majority of 60% of voters to back it.

The clause states that the bill is necessary for the preservation of public peace, health and security. However, this led to a legal opinion on behalf of the Maverick company being given by Judge Philip A. Talmadge. In his opinion, he says:

An emergency clause to this legislation, claiming that either bill is necessary for the immediate preservation of public peace, health, or safety is highly suspect and will only ensure lengthy litigation testing such a legislative assertion.

Instead of ESHB 2638, Maverick sought to have the government of Washington pass alternative bills, seeking out a much more inclusive market that also included mobile sports betting possibilities. Of course, it could only be expected that Washington wouldn’t branch out into the online sports betting world, considering that online gambling in the state is considered as a Class C felony.

Casinos and Sports Events Non-Operational Due to COVID-19

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Of course, as things stand at the moment, all casinos in Washington, and indeed in all other states and most places around the world, are closed due to the coronavirus threat. The gambling world has been disrupted significantly by it, with a number of poker tournaments even being postponed or cancelled. So, while it would be nice for sports betting fans in Washington to actually go out and be able to celebrate the signing of the bill, little can really be done with regard to it for the time being.

And even if the casinos offering sports betting opportunities were open, all major sporting events around the world have also been cancelled for the moment for the same reason. So there would be very little opportunity to even participate in sports betting in the 35 Washington tribal casinos at this moment in time.

Even though real money online gaming is considered a Class C felony in The Evergreen State, this is not something that the government has ever enforced. Nobody has been prosecuted for it, arrested for it, or indicted. So, if you’re waiting around for sports betting to arrive at the tribal casinos, then you have the opportunity to participate in online poker in Washington instead.

If you reside somewhere in the United States besides Washington, then you also can participate in this fun and rewarding pastime too because there are offshore poker rooms that do business in every single state. Check out our USA online poker guide to get all the info you need to get started playing cards over the internet.