Washington state okays sports betting at tribal casinos

Legal sports betting is coming to Washington state, although only at tribal casinos and only in-person.

On Wednesday, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed HB 2638, the sports betting bill approved by the state senate earlier this month. The bill will allow wagering at casinos operated by the state’s 29 federally recognized tribes, once the state renegotiates the individual gaming compacts it has with its tribal groups.

There would likely be more cheering among the state’s sports bettors if any of the state’s tribal casinos were actually open at the moment. Like the rest of the US casino industry – both tribal and commercial – Washington’s tribes have shut their gaming operations to minimize further spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Coronavirus-related shutdowns of major leagues mean there are also few sports events on which to wager for the time being.

And there’s little joy at the bill’s lack of a statewide digital wagering component, which isn’t that surprising given that Washington has made the mere act of engaging in online gambling a Class C felony. The bill does permit a limited form of mobile betting within the physical confines of a tribal casino.

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