On March 25, 2020, Governor Jay Inslee signed House Bill 2638, which amends several laws and regulatory and licensing requirements/crimes in the Gambling Act, and now authorizes sports wagering subject to the terms of tribal-state gaming compacts. Tribes' Class III gaming compacts will need to be amended; new Commission rules will need to be adopted; and any new sports wagering licenses will need to be approved before tribes can offer sports wagering at tribal casinos.
Tribal-State Class III Sports Wagering Compacts
We are currently negotiating sports wagering compact amendments with Tribes in Washington State. We currently have tentative agreements with fifteen of our twenty-nine federally recognized Tribes. The Tribes with tentative sports wagering compact amendments are:
Each Tribe’s Class III sports wagering compact amendment will be heard in a Legislative Joint Hearing on May 19, 2021. Then, each compact amendment will go before the agency’s Commissioners for their review and a vote at the agency’s June 10, 2021 public meeting.
If approved by the Agency’s Commissioners on June 10, 2021, then the proposed compact amendments will be forwarded to the Tribal Chair of each Tribe identified above and Governor Inslee for their review and signatures. Once signed by the Tribal Chair and Governor, each compact amendment will be sent to the Secretary of the United States Department of Interior for consideration and publication in the Federal Register. The sports wagering compact amendments above will not be final, and sports wagering cannot begin, until each sports wagering compact amendment is published in the Federal Register.
The Gambling Commission must amend its rules for sports wagering consistent with the above-referenced compact agreements. The agency’s sports wagering rules will address state licensing and regulations for businesses and organizations wishing to provide equipment, goods and services for sports wagering occurring at Tribal casinos, consistent with tribal-state sports wagering compact amendments identified above. These rules must be created and amended through the public rule-making process and the agency expects to have draft rules for its Commissioners’ review at our June 10, 2021 public meeting.
Final sports wagering draft rules will likely go before the agency’s Commissioners for their final approval at a Special Meeting near the end of July 2021 with an effective date sometime the end of August 2021.
What's the latest?
July 2020: Commissioners vote unanimously to initiate rulemaking to facilitate the implementation of sports wagering. Commission files CR-101 with Code Reviser’s Office.
December 2020: Prelicensing qualification rule language was drafted and is ready for review. The proposed prelicensing qualification rules are meant to authorize the agency's prelicensing investigation process for future sports wagering licenses. Our agency's goal is to allow individuals and/or organizations the ability to get a head start on our prelicensing investigation process through these rules. These rules are not intended to become a sports wagering license or give the individual or organization a license at this time. The final draft sports wagering license rules are still part of tribal-state compact negotiations and any final sports wagering rules will be forthcoming and publicly available in the future.
January 2021: The agency filed the proposed prelicensing qualification rules with the Office of the Code Reviser on Tuesday, January 19, 2021. These rules will be published in the February 3, 2021 issue of the Washington State Register (WSR 21-03-072). The agency can take final action on them any time on or after February 23, 2021.
February 2021: Sports Wagering Pre-licensing Investigation Rules are passed with an effective date of March 29, 2021
April-May 2021: The Gambling Commission and fourteen Tribes (see above) announce they have reached a tentative agreement for sports wagering compacts.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why can’t I play “free” sports betting apps?
This is a business decision made by the developer of the app. You should contact them.
Is any type of sports wagering legal?
In 1973, when the Gambling Act was first passed, 100-square sports pool boards were authorized. Bracket pools, office sports pools, and fantasy sports have never been authorized as gambling activities in Washington State and are illegal.
When will Washington launch retail sportsbooks at tribal casinos?
Washington’s new sports wagering law does not establish a date for when retail sportsbooks will being operating at tribal casinos. We are currently in tribal compact negotiations and are working through the rulemaking process.
Will tribal sportsbooks be allowed to accept wagers through a mobile app and/or the Internet?
Washington’s new sports wagering law does allow for mobile sports wagering as long as the wager is placed and accepted at a tribe’s gaming facility while the customer placing the wager is physically present on the premises. The specifics on how bets are placed through mobile apps or the Internet and where those wagers can be placed while physically on a tribal casino premises will be determined through the current tribal-state compact negotiation process.
What events and wagers are allowed under Washington’s new sports wagering law?
Washington’s new sports wagering law authorizes sports wagering on all professional sports and events, except for minor leagues, Olympics or international sports, in-state collegiate sports and esports. The official catalog of sports and events, or the process for approval of sports and events, will be determined through the current tribal-state compact negotiation process.
I am a sports wagering business wishing to enter the Washington market, can I start the license application process now?
No. The Gambling Commission’s current licensing system does not include licenses for sports wagering. We are currently in tribal compact negotiations with tribal representatives to develop a new licensing system for sports wagering. Once a licensing system is agreed upon, then the Gambling Commission will work with industry stakeholders to finalize the licensing system, including licensing fees, through the public rulemaking process. Once the licensing rules are finalized, sports wagering businesses will be able to apply for sports wagering licenses.
What is the cost of a sports wagering license?
We have not yet determined the fee for a sports wagering license or series of licenses. Fees will be determined through tribal negotiations and the public rulemaking process.
How do I know if my sports pool is legal (RCW 9.46.0335)?
Sports pools are allowed under Washington state law as long as: (1) the board is based on a single athletic event, (2) the board is divided into 100 equal squares, (3) numbers representing game scores are randomly assigned to squares, and (4) you must charge no more than $1 per square. Only one sports board is allowed per sporting event, per business or party. Both businesses and individuals can conduct sports boards within strict limitation.
Is bookmaking (sports book) legal in Washington?
No. "Bookmaking" means accepting bets upon the outcome of future contingent events, as a business or in which the bettor is charged a fee or "vigorish" for the opportunity to place a bet. This is illegal and would be considered professional gambling. Professional gambling statutes range from first degree (class B felony) to third degree (gross misdemeanor) depending on several factors, including the amount of money and persons involved.
Can I bet on my favorite horse?
Bets placed on horses follow different laws. For laws specific to betting on horse racing, please contact the Washington State Horse Racing Commission.
I won money on a sports bet but the bookie won't pay. What do I do?
If the bet was placed with a bookie, it is an illegal bet and you have no legal recourse; however, you can anonymously report the bookie and other illegal sports betting activity using our online tool.