On July 12, 2021, Washington Governor Jay Inslee approved amended state-tribal gaming compacts with 15 of the state’s Indian Tribes that would allow the Tribes to offer retail and online sports betting on the premises of tribal casinos. The compacts were renegotiated pursuant to legislation enacted in March 2020, which allowed the Tribes to request that their compacts be amended to include on-premises sports betting. The newly amended compacts and forthcoming sports betting regulations will require that any vendor who provides sports betting-related goods and services to the Tribes obtain a sports wagering license.
State officials have expressed optimism that on-site betting will go “live” in time for the 2021-2022 NFL season, which officially begins on September 9, 2021. However, before sports betting operations can officially “launch,” the amended state-tribal gaming compacts must be reviewed and approved by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA); and the Washington Gaming Commission (the Commission) must promulgate sports betting regulations and begin the formal vendor licensing process.
It is unclear whether the Governor’s office has submitted the amended state-tribal compacts for BIA review. Once the compacts are submitted, the BIA will have 45 days to approve or reject the amendments.
On the rulemaking front, the Commission recently announced it will host a Special Meeting on July 28, 2021, where it will approve a final set of sports betting regulations. The final rules are expected to take effect sometime in late August, at which point the vendor licensing process will begin. In order to speed up the licensing process, the Commission has enacted a rule allowing service providers to apply for “pre-licensing investigations,” thereby eliminating the need for time-intensive licensing investigations once the regulations have been approved.
Assuming the amended state-tribal gaming compacts receive timely approval from the BIA and the Commission’s final regulations are approved as planned, it seems likely sports betting will go “live” in Washington sometime in early September – just in time for the start of the NFL season.