Will Washington Sports Betting Bill End Up in Court?

Washington Sports Betting

There is a bill that would limit sports betting in Washington to tribal run casinos in the state, and while that bill recently passed, it could end up in court. The argument of those opposed to the bill had a legal challenge that came from an emergency amendment that was approved for bill HB 2638.

The amendment comes from Washington Representative Jim Walsh, and it would immediately legalize the law, which would take out any chance for a referendum.

In Washington, to change a law, there usually needs to be a 60% voter approval.

Eric Persson, who is the CEO of Maverick Gaming, recently stated, “The emergency clause is something we welcome because we think it’s flawed logic and there is no emergency. We think ultimately through litigation, this legislation would probably be thrown out.”

It is pretty obvious to Persson why the state legislature would want to skip a referendum when it comes to the sports betting issue. He stated, “I’m sure they’ve done polling on Washingtonians like we have. They know there’s no path to 60%.”

Maverick Gaming Behind Other Bills

Maverick Gaming has an interest in the tribal efforts failing to have exclusive sports betting, as of the 44 cardrooms in Washington, they own 19 of them. They have helped in coming up with the bills of SB 6277 and HB 2478, and those would not only allow sports betting in tribal casinos but also in cardrooms in the state.

In the tribal bill, there is only gambling available, but it has to be on the property of the tribal casino.

The efforts commercially are now a non-issue in 2020 since they were not voted on in committee. Previously, Persson stated he did not have the expectations that either of the two bills would pass since this is an election year, which means the sessions are shorter.

The tribal bill had an advantage when it came to the commercial effort in legal sports betting in Washington. However, that changed in the substitute of the tribes, which passed in the Washington House.

Washington Sponsor Views Bill As Positive

Washington Representative Strom Peterson is the sponsor of the bill HB 2638, and he views the bill as something positive for the state, and he told as much recently to the Seattle Times.

“Incredibly proud of the strong 83-14 bipartisan vote,” Peterson said. “We have found a good middle path that supports our tribal partners, allows adults to safely access sports betting, and protects our youth.”

The editorial page of the Seattle Times did not agree with Peterson, and they had an opinion article saying that it would be a “flawed approach” to limit Washington sports betting only to the 29 tribal casinos in the state.

Off to Court?

In terms of the amendment for Washington, sports wagering safety is the main issue for the enactment of an immediate manner. In a citation from the amendment, it states. “This act is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety, or support of the state government and its existing public institutions, and takes effect immediately.”

Phil Talmadge is a former Washington senator and Washington Supreme Court justice, and he does not agree with Maverick Gaming’s opinion on the matter.

Persson was asked if he would take the legislation to state court if it passed and said, “of course.” He went on to say, “I have the money, the time, and the guts to fight it, so let’s do it. That’s how I’m looking at it.”

According to Talmadge, there is no need for an emergency amendment. Currently, he is employed at Talmadge/Fitzpatrick as an appeals attorney.

In the opinion backed by Maverick Gaming, Talmadge said that legislation in terms of gaming is not emergent. The Washington state government also does not get any revenue in the bill, so he stated enaction in an immediate manner to support Washington is simply not true.

Saying that the bill is a necessity for immediate protection of peace, health, or safety is very questionable and would make the litigation process a lengthy one, according to Talmadge.
Persson has stated that the only way to move forward would be joint legislation between the Washington tribes and the cardrooms in the state.

“All of the polling we’ve done statewide, the feedback is really clear,” he said. “It shouldn’t be a monopoly, and it should be taxed. Those taxed dollars should go toward great social causes. That’s what the overwhelming majority of Washingtonians say.”