Tribes in Washington Get Federal Approval to Offer Sports Betting

Washington State Washington tribes gain federal approval for sports gambling
Sep 02, 2021 16:09Tim Ronaldson

Tribal casinos in the state of Washington jumped over the final political hurdle they needed to so they can offer sports betting. It's even possible that some of the casinos could open their sportsbooks by the first week of the upcoming NFL season.

Nine tribes received federal approval for sports gambling from the U.S. Department of Interior. The applications from seven other tribes are still pending.

With final federal approval, the tribes will start moving toward setting up their sports gambling operations and offering bettors in the state a place to wager on sports.

How We Got Here

In late July, the Washington State Gambling Commission gave approval for the sports betting proposals that the tribes outlined. The goal of the tribes was to have everything set up in place by the start of the National Football League season, which kicks off on September 9.

The NFL season is crucial for all sports betting operators, but the tribes in Washington see it especially so. They were hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, and look to sports betting on the NFL so they can provide all their social, education and health services to their tribes.

Now that federal approval has been given, it's up to the individual tribes as to how they move forward -- and how quickly they can do so. The tribes will have to abide by many of the outlined measures and regulations.

They also needed to secure a vendor that's approved to offer sports gambling, and adhere to all the bureaucratic, logistical and security issues that could arise.

Many experts who are familiar with the sports gambling in the state of Washington say that the actual offering of wagering in the state could be many weeks away. That's because many of the tribal casinos haven't secured final agreements with vendors that have been approved to offer sports gambling in the state.

The Strict State Requirements

Washington State has some of the strictest gambling regulations in the country, and that has played a huge role in the tribes gaining approval. The battle for approval has lasted since sports gambling was approved in the United States back in 2018.

It took until March of 2020 for the tribal casinos to convince the state legislature to approve sports gambling only within the property of those tribal casinos in the state. But, it took more than a year from that time for all the final details to be ironed out, and for the tribal compact amendments to be finally negotiated between the tribes and the state government.

Among the most contentious points is how to handle mobile sports wagering. In Washington State, mobile wagering is actually a felony crime, as is any other online gambling form.

With this latest agreement, the tribal casinos won a victory when they were given approval to offer mobile sports wagering. That can only happen within the tribal casinos and the surrounding area, though. The mobile software must use geofencing technology to set up a "virtual perimeter," and prevent any person from accessing the app from outside that area.

Even with the limited access compared to other states, though, this is still a huge victory for Washington tribal casinos.

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Tim Ronaldson
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Tim Ronaldson is a writer, blogger and marketer. He loves all things sports, especially covering the sports betting industry. He joined the AmericaGambles Team 2020 and is mainly responsible for columns and extensive reportage articles.
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