Draft legislation to increase gambling launched in laws

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SPOKANE, Washington (AP) – For the second consecutive year, state law has introduced bill to expand Washington state gambling beyond Indian casinos to privately owned card rooms.

The Senate bill aims to expand sports betting to the state-licensed card rooms and horse tracks, and is again being pushed by Nevada’s Maverick Gaming.

A similar proposal failed last year, but proponents say the new efforts are bipartisan and could generate revenue to aid the state’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the last session, legislators approved gambling for Indian tribes, but this has not yet come into force as government pacts are still being negotiated. At the same time, lawmakers rejected a bill that would open up gambling to non-tribal competitions.

But that happened before the pandemic damaged the economy.

Eric Persson, CEO of Maverick Gaming, said the company continues to strive to improve the Washington state economy.

The bill takes a humble approach that creates economic opportunities for our workforce, creates approximately 10 new jobs in each of our 19 locations, and helps initiate pandemic relief efforts by injecting tens of millions of new tax dollars into local and state programs, ” he said.

Senate Bill 5212 is jointly sponsored by Republican Senator Curtis King of Yakima and Democratic Chairman Seno Marko Liias of Lynnwood. This only applies to existing map rooms and race tracks. It enables online gambling, but only within the confines of the arcade.

Persson, a native of Hoquiam who controls 19 of the 44 licensed card rooms in Washington, has estimated that sports games can generate up to $ 50 million in state taxes annually.

For decades, tribal casinos have operated most of the legalized gambling in Washington. The state allows limited gambling outside of the tribal establishments in “card room” casinos, but only card games such as blackjack and some poker are allowed.

Pressure to legalize gambling has increased nationwide since the U.S. Supreme Court passed federal law in 2018 that banned it everywhere except Las Vegas and a handful of other jurisdictions.

Individual states can now determine their own course, and Washington, along with two dozen other states, legalized the course in some form last year.

State lawmakers have long argued that Washington’s tribal casinos have offered safe and responsible gaming for three decades.

The Washington Indian Gaming Association, which represents the interests of the tribal casinos, turned down the proposal last year and will continue to reject it this year, said executive director Rebecca George.

Tribes have shown they know how to properly gamble, employ about 30,000 people nationwide, and use gambling revenues to fund their operations and social programs, George said.

“We’re talking about government games,” said George. “ The money goes into government programs. We are not a non-government company. “

If card rooms are given the right to offer sports betting, money will be stolen from poor communities, George said.

Under the bill:

– Only existing licensed card rooms and race tracks can receive a sports betting license

– Each facility must have its own license and a license fee of $ 100,000 is charged.

– A state tax of 10% would be imposed on the operators on all gross income from sports betting. This tax would be in addition to the taxes levied at the local level.

The bill would not allow betting on college sporting events held in Washington state or involving a Washington state team. Betting on electronic sports, college sports and competitive video games would be prohibited.