Washington lawmakers consider legalizing sports betting

OLYMPIA, Wash–Betting on sports is something people have been doing for decades in the United States; mostly illegally.

Pew research tells us $150 billion is wagered on sports in the black market each year.

“I think a lot of people in this room today may not even know when they participate in march madness, filling out a bracket, they’re committing a crime,” said Eric Persson, owner of Maverick Gaming. “When they do fantasy sports, if they do it in this state, they’re committing a crime.”

Now, Washington lawmakers are hoping to bring some of that revenue into the state.

Two bills are making their way through the legislature– SB6277 and SB6934.

6277 would allow online and mobile sports betting as well as betting at casinos, card rooms and racetracks.

“In this instance, the state of Washington is going to participate in the benefit and taxes that can be generated. That’s all we’re asking for,” said Sen. Curtis King, the sponsor of this bill.

But, the office of the Washington State Attorney General thinks the bill isn’t restrictive enough.

“Senate bill 6277 will allow largely unrestricted online and mobile sports betting to take place in every community across Washington state,” said Yasmin Trudeau, a representative with the Attorney General’s office.

That’s where SB6934 comes into play–a bill which would only allow sports betting at the tribal casinos.

Northern Quest Casino believes that’s the safest bill for everyone involved.

They said the money which comes in from gambling often goes right back into the community by the tribes.

“Not only do they fund their governments, but they fund health and education programs, they fund higher education programs, and they give back to the local municipalities for police and fire,” Executive Director Kevin Zenishek said.

But in the end, putting too many restrictions on these bills may just leave more money on the black market.

“Pull out the phone, let’s download an app, we can do it right here right now, and we can start betting,” Vicki Christophersen with Maverick Gaming said.

It’s hard to say exactly how much money sports betting would bring in, but those representatives with Maverick Gaming said $30-$50 million is a possibility.

Right now, both bills are still awaiting a decision from the Senate Committee on Labor & Commerce.