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Washington panel approves sports betting in tribal casinos; sends to Inslee for approval

If the governor approves, the issue will be sent to the federal government for approval.

TULALIP, Wash. — The Washington State Gambling Commission has approved amendments to gambling compacts for 15 Native American tribes that are a major step to allowing those tribes to offer sports betting at their casinos. 

Commissioners on Thursday voted 7-0, with two excused, on the requests from all 15 tribes to approve the amendments and send them to Gov. Jay Inslee for his approval.

This was the next step in the complicated process of allowing sports betting, following approval last year by the state Legislature. If the governor approves, the issue will be sent to the federal government for approval.

The approval process from the governor's office is expected to be relatively quick, according to Brian J. Considine, legal and legislative manager for the Washington State Gambling Commission.

Considine said the U.S. Department of Interior has 45 days to take action on the sports wagering compacts once they receive it. The compacts must be in the Federal Register for them to become effective.

The goal for the Tulalip Tribes, at least, is for everything to be in place before the NFL season begins in the fall.

"There's been excitement building over this. Washingtonians have been wanting to bet on some form of sports betting for some time now," said Tulalip Tribes Vice Chairman Glen Gobin.

The Washington Indian Gaming Association on Thursday said the Gambling Commission's vote is a major milestone.

“The Commission’s vote highlights the strong and collaborative partnership between tribes and the state that has emerged over the last three decades as our limited and carefully regulated system of gaming has taken shape. By fitting sports betting into the existing – and proven – tribal gaming system, the state has ensured that sports betting revenues will stay in Washington and will go towards uplifting historically marginalized communities, while creating local jobs, boosting the state economy and funding critical services for those in need," said Washington Indian Gaming Association (WIGA) Executive Director Rebecca George, in a news release.

Tribal governments support more than 37,000 jobs with 70% of them held by non-tribal members, according to WIGA.

Gobin, of the Tulalip Tribes, agreed.

"The gaming dollars generated on tribal reservations stay within Washington state. The profits don't leave here. Our profits run our tribal governments and are fed into the local and larger economies over and over again," Gobin said.

If the tribal gambling compacts are indeed fully approved, 15 tribes can offer sports betting on major professional sports, E-Sports, Olympics and International sports and college sports, but excluding in-state colleges. Mobile and online wagers on tribal casino premises will also be allowed.

The 15 tribes include the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, the Cowlitz Indian Tribe, the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, the Kalispel Tribe of Indians, Lummi Nation, Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, Puyallup Tribe of Indians, Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe, Snoqualmie Indian Tribe, Spokane Tribe, Squaxin Island Tribe, Stillaguamish Tribe of Indians, Suquamish Tribe, Swinomish Indian Tribal Community and Tulalip Tribes of Washington.

While all tribes in Washington have gaming compacts, any remaining tribes in the state that want to operate sports betting in particular, will need to initiate the negotiation process with the state, according to WIGA.