The picture of how Washington State’s sports betting market will work just became a little clearer. Gaming regulators approved rules yesterday regarding how licensing will be handled, facilitating a possible launch of the state’s first sportsbooks this September. One big hurdle still remains, however, as the Department of the Interior (DoI) has not yet signed off on the new gaming compacts signed by Governor Jay Inslee and 15 tribes in the state.
Washington Closes in on Sports Betting Launch
The Washington Gambling Commission met yesterday, spending time to address how Washington’s sports betting market will be framed. On the agenda were the rules regarding the requirements for sportsbook licenses, all of which were unanimously approved by the commission members. With that, sportsbooks now know what will be expected of them as they submit applications for licenses, but state gamblers can’t start readying their NFL bets just yet. The DoI has to sign off on the tribal compacts, and that approval – if it comes – won’t arrive until sometime in August or September.
15 Indian tribes located in Washington have signed agreements with the state that will allow them to offer sports betting and a handful of the remaining 14 are said to be trying to work out a deal. However, bettors are going to have to be ready to travel. There won’t be any mobile option offered, at least for now, and all wagers will need to be placed at sportsbooks located on tribal property. There are 20 casinos in the state that are controlled by the tribes, which means there could be plenty of options. For those bettors around the Seattle area, there are 13 casinos within driving distance, which means Seattle is going to see a lot of action.
Slow Progress at the Federal Level
The DoI, because tribes are involved, has the final say on whether the gaming compacts are valid. It isn’t expected that the agreements will face the same issues as those in Florida, but no word has come yet from the federal agency on the new arrangements. Governor Inslee and the tribes only signed off on their compacts earlier this month before sending them to the DoI, and the agency has up to 45 days to respond.
It’s possible, provided there are no last-minute challenges or issues, that the DoI could approve the compacts by the middle of August, which would give the tribes more than enough time to be licensed for their sportsbooks. Should that happen, the first wagers could conceivably be placed for the first game of the NFL season on September 9. If not, and the approval comes later, the tribes will still be able to capture most of the season, with the NFL always being among the top targets for sports wagers.
Washington had some difficulty making progress with its sports betting plans at first, as some tribes put up resistance. Now, however, differences have been put to rest, in most cases, and those tribes that still remain opposed to the idea will pay the price for their obstinance. Some tribes are more than happy to tap into the multibillion-dollar sports betting industry while the others sit in the bleachers and watch.