Although it seemed improbable that Washington State might be able to find support from native Indian tribes for sports gambling, there has been only limited resistance. State leaders and gaming regulators have been actively working with the tribes to create new gaming compacts that will facilitate the introduction of sports gambling and those efforts are paying off. A new agreement has been signed between the Washington State Gambling Commission (WSGC) and 11 tribes in the state, bringing to 15 the total number of tribes that are now going to be involved, to some degree, with sports gambling.
In those US states with a native Indian presence, almost all have handed over gaming to the tribes. As a result, any attempt to expand the activity requires acceptance by those tribes. This has caused issues in New York and Florida previously, and even Washington State has had to approach the issue cautiously. 14 of the 29 federally recognized tribes in the state have shown that they aren’t willing to negotiate new compacts that might negatively impact their revenue.
After the WSGC began approaching the tribes to update their gaming compacts, a few agreed to accept the new language. Four tribes seemed to be willing to work with the state and the latest agreement with other tribes will help create a robust sports gambling market in Washington. The new compact the commission has sealed includes Colville, Cowlitz, Jamestown S’Klallam, Lummi, Muckleshoot, Puyallup, Shoalwater Bay, Spokane, Squaxin Island, Stillaguamish, and Swinomish Tribes. All of the tribes that have signed the new agreement will be able to offer in-person and mobile sports gambling, but mobile will only be allowed on the tribe’s recognized property.
Although the approval of the gaming compacts is a huge step in the right direction, there is still more work to be done before sports gambling can be introduced to tribal casinos. The next step is to have the latest compact approved at hearings held by both the House and the Senate today. The Senate Labor, Commerce and Tribal Affairs Committee and the House Commerce and Gaming Committee are scheduled to review the compact, and, hopefully, let it move forward.
The WSGC will then review the compact again for any changes that might have been suggested before putting the compact before a public hearing on June 10. Provided it is able to continue advancing after that, the agreement will need to be signed by the Tribal Chair, as well as Governor Jay Inslee. The last step needed before Washington State flips the switch on sports gambling will be for the compact to appear in the Federal Register. While this often happens quickly following necessary approvals, there is no set timeline for it to be published.