Late last week, the Gambling Commission of the state of Washington voted 3 to 0 to give a start to the legal sports betting rule-making process. The gambling regulatory body also agreed to proceed with a request to the state legislature to absolve or extend a $6-million loan repayment as part of the new sports betting legislation.
Whatever the decision, no immediate movement on sports betting legalization in the state is expected. Instead, the members of the Gambling Commission are preparing to move when the state agrees on its first tribal compact including sports betting services. According to experts, such an agreement would not be completed for a few more months, and the rule-making process associated with the new form of gambling will start after that.
While the Washington State Gambling Commission (WSGC) has been preparing for the legalization of sports betting, the state and local Indian Tribes must first agree on a compact to add the new form of gambling as a legal betting activity before the watchdog is able to launch the proposed rules or commence the licensing process.
The Washington legislature gave the green light to tribal-only sports betting services in March 2020 but, for now, no deadline for the official launch of legal sports betting services has been placed. Under the proposed piece of legislation, only betting on premises at retail sportsbook sites is legal.
WSGC to Ask State Legislature to Absolve or Extend $6-Million Loan
As mentioned above, apart from the sports betting rule-making process, the Gambling Commission took into consideration the $6-million loan that Washington legislature awarded to the regulator earlier this year. The loan was granted as an emergency provision and was supposed to give the Commission an advantage on taking measures against illegal sports betting.
However, sports betting became law before the coronavirus outbreak in the US, after which literally all professional sports shut down and some lockdown measures were imposed. At the time when the Washington State Gambling Commission received the monetary loan, the plan was to pay it back using the proceeds from the new form of gambling allowed in the state. Unfortunately, the overall slowdown in the economy ended up creating a shortfall that the gambling regulator is finding hard to deal with it.
Chris Stanley, Chief Financial Officer of the WSGC, outlined a plan to call for the state to extend the deadline for returning the loan to 2022 or ask the state to fully absolve the loan. Another board member, Senator Steve Conway, called for an even longer extension – one into 2023 or 2024 – to be asked for. In the end, the Commission officers agreed that their major goal will be seeing the loan forgiven, but an eventual failure would make them ask the state legislature for an extension.
Tribal Compact Will Have to Be Agreed before Sports Betting Rule-Making Process Proceeds
At a meeting of the WSGC that took place online last week, the Commission’s Legal and Legislative Manager Brian Cosidine confirmed that the state and its tribes would have to clarify the situation with sports betting by agreeing on a compact. He further noted that it would proceed with a rule-making process in case the compact negotiations and agreement are in a good place in the following three months.
Mr. Cosidine explained that the compact is set to cover all issues associated with sports betting – from licensing procedures to integrity – but the talks are still at an early stage, so he was unable to predict exactly when the state would finalize the talks with the tribes and the proposed sports betting rules would be launched.
The Washington gambling board is already having negotiations with four Indian Tribes, but the process involves talks with each of the tribes individually, reaching an agreement and then having the compact signed off on by the state legislature, the Governor of Washington and the US Department of the Interior.