Bill SB 5587 – 2023-24 For Washington Gambling

It was an excellent moment for avid bettors and local card rooms in Washington as Senator Steven Cortis presented the SB5587 bill early this year, granting bettors the freedom to place bets at racetracks and legal card rooms across the state. This would break the old tradition of restricting sports betting in the state to tribal casinos.

However, the excitement was mixed with worry as the bipartisan bill, co-sponsored by Senators Marco Lilias and Perry Dozier, unsurprisingly hit legislative hurdles on the floor of the Evergreen State House. This makes it the third bill to challenge the tribal casino monopoly since the first sportsbook opened in 2021, prompting questions about its ability to weather the legislative storm ahead.

Interestingly, Maverick Gaming, a local card room company and a passionate bill supporter, threatens to take the battle further to the US Supreme Court. At the same time, vocal opponents like the Washington Indian Gaming Association remain steadfast in their opposition, arguing that expanding sports betting beyond tribal casinos would go against the public interest.

With these developments, it is essential to know what the bill’s potential impacts are and its status as of today.

Overview of the Potential Impact of the SB 5587 Bill on Gambling in Washington

If passed into law, I would like to know how the SB5587 bill would impact the future of sports betting in the Evergreen State. Let’s delve into some of the potential implications:

1.   Opening the sports betting market to outside operators:

Washington’s sports betting landscape is tightly controlled, with tribal casinos holding the monopoly. Bettors, however, yearn for the variety and excitement outside operators offer. SB5587, championed by Senators Steven Cortis, Marco Lilias, and Perry Dozier, would allow card rooms and racetracks to join the game, promising a more dynamic market with better odds, competitive pricing, and a more comprehensive range of betting types, including live in-game wagers.

For tribal casinos, this would create a competitive environment threatening a shift in power dynamics. Hence, their unsurprising push against the bill led to even more heated debate in the chambers.

2.   Increased revenue for the state:

This was a significant point argued by Senator Curtis. He pointed out that Washington is missing millions of dollars in annual revenue by restricting legal betting to fewer locations across the state. The bill proposed a $100,000 license charge and a 10% tax on all bets, which is expected to generate significant revenue for the state that could be used to fund essential services like education and infrastructure, among others.

3.   Job creation:

A report from the Transparency Market Research group states the global market value of the sports betting industry is expected to reach a whopping $664.0 billion by 2031, presenting a massive opportunity for countries and states seeking to expand sports betting beyond local boundaries. Imagining how much economic opportunity will be left untapped by closing the door to card rooms and restricting online casinos in Washington is part of the reason proponents of SB5587 are unrelenting in their battle to see the bill succeed.

Expanding the sports betting industry would necessitate additional staff at these establishments, creating jobs in various areas like security, customer service, technology, and management.

4.   Potential risk of addiction:

One of the major arguments against the bill is its potential to increase addiction among bettors in the state. Rebecca George, the executive director of the Washington Indian Gaming Association, stated in a written rebuttal against the bill that it would severely undermine Washington’s existing safe gaming system and put residents at risk. However, Rep. Amy Walen argued that the bill is very narrow and already has limitations to tackle addiction.

5.   Regulatory concerns:

Opponents in the Evergreen State House view the bill as a disruption in sports betting legislation. An expansion would require robust regulations to ensure fair play, transparency, and responsible gaming. There is a lot to consider beyond passing the bill. Balancing the potential economic benefits with the potential for social harm is something to consider.

What would happen if the bill fails

While bettors in Washington long for a positive outcome, the legislature adjourned the bill for the year without taking further action since October 2023. Given this, It is essential to weigh what would happen if the bill fails to be passed into law.

No doubt, tribal casinos would retain their exclusive right to operate sports betting in Washington, potentially limiting innovation and competition. The state would also miss out on potential tax revenue, and most importantly, the debate is expected to continue as more bills arise.

What’s the status of the SB 5587 bill to date?

Two public hearings have been held in February and April 2023, generating significant public interest. Several executive sessions regarding the bill have been postponed, indicating no consensus yet. The SB 5587 bill will see further action once the 2024 legislative session begins.

The SB 5587: Scaling Through Legislative Hurdles

The question on everyone’s mind is whether the bill will eventually scale through. It is a matter of debate beyond the Evergreen State House. The bill, no doubt, represents a pivotal moment in the history of sports betting in Washington, and regardless of its success or failure, the outcome would shape the future of legislation for sports betting in Washington.

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