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“The Impact”: Sports Betting Begins, What’s Legal, What’s Not

Mike McClanahan profile by Mike McClanahan

 “The Impact”  – Sept. 22, 2021

Fall football season is underway and for the first time legal sports betting is an option at tribal casinos in Washington.  Betting on sports was only allowed in Nevada until a 2018 ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court opened the door for other states to offer it.  The Washington State Legislature passed a law that authorizes the 29 federally recognized treaty tribes in the state to seek modifications to their gaming compacts to  allow sports betting in tribal gaming facilities.  Placing or taking bets on sporting events is not legal anywhere else in the state.

To kick-off the NFL season retired Seattle Supersonics star Shawn Kemp placed the first bet at Snoqualmie Casino, the first facility to open a sportsbook in Washington.

 “From a what can they bet on standpoint, a lot of the sports that you see in a typical Las Vegas market, your typical Las Vegas sports book, you should be able to see here: football; basketball; baseball; hockey,” said Stanford Le, Snoqualmie Casino President and CEO. “You can place bets at our sports counter. We also have kiosks that can take bets up to two-thousand dollars and in the very near future we will actually have a mobile app that that they’ll be able to place bets on, on the property.”

The allowance of on-site mobile or electronic betting at tribal casinos does not extend beyond the property line. Anywhere else in Washington, online gambling is listed as a felony.

The process of amending tribal gaming compacts requires approval from the tribal chair, the governor, the state gambling commission, and the U.S. Secretary of the Interior.  The amended compacts only take effect once they are published in the Federal Register. So far, thirteen of the sixteen Washington tribes that applied for compact amendments have been approved to offer in-casino sports betting.

The state legislature did include additional guardrails on sports wagers in Washington, to prohibit betting on in-state college or university teams.

“Washington college sports, those would probably be the most requested bets, but things that we can’t accommodate,” said Le. “You know I think the biggest thing for casinos, regulators, the state – it’s about the integrity of the game. That’s something that we’ve all worked long and hard for.  And to make sure that it’s truly a genuine and well executed event. Now when it comes to the safeguards we’ve got several different vendors and different data feeds that actually help us to protect those integrities. I won’t name them, but as far as being able to get a little bit more insight on who’s involved in those games and who could have influence on those games, we want to make sure that those folks can’t place any sports wagers or influence the games in any way.”

The restricted list extends beyond star athletes that are easily recognizable.

 “Let’s say there’s an equipment manager or somebody like that who we wouldn’t be as familiar with, their name is on file with that integrity monitoring as well,” said Le.

 Washington State Gambling Commission Interim Director Tina Griffin says the expansion of sports betting is the most significant change to in-state gambling policies in a long time.

“Sports betting is more complex than any of the other gambling activities that we have had in Washington. The tribal gaming agencies are the primary regulators for all gambling activities that occur on their properties. The Washington State Gambling Commission works in a coregulatory partnership with the tribal gaming agencies to ensure compact compliance and then we do, do the investigations of illegal wagering that occurs off the tribal gaming properties,” said Griffin.

Addiction watchdogs are worried about the impact expanded sports will have on potential problem gamblers and those already in recovery.

“It used to be you would have to place one bet and wait for the outcome of a game. That may be hours, that may be days depending on what you’re betting on. Now you can bet hundreds and hundreds of times during the course of one sporting event. That makes gambling much riskier,” said Maureen Greeley, Executive Director of the Evergreen Council on Problem Gambling.

“The love of sports has long been an accepted part of our culture. Now the betting on sports has become more common, and normalized, and even glamorized,” said Greeley. “It’s not really exploding in Washington yet, but it’s changing the landscape of shared entertainment and shifting our cultural norms.”

Evergreen CPG has responsible gambling guidelines to remember and  information about help for problem gambling, here.


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