Just last year, in 2020, the future of sports betting in Washington looked rather bleak. While other places in the United States loosened their rules and regulations and passed bills that legalized mobile wagering, Washington took the stance of exclusivity.
Now, though, Washington's bill to legalize sports betting passed.
Impact of Washington's Legalization of Sports Betting
Anyone who has been paying attention isn't surprised. This has been a long time coming. But what does it all mean? And when can Washington residents expect to be granted unfettered access to betting beyond tribal locations?
Let's break it all down.
Why Washington Legalized Sports Betting
Before we get into the nitty-gritty details and specifics of the latest bill, we have to answer the question of why: What, exactly, caused Washington to have a change of heart from early 2020?
Many people will point to surrounding states that already pushed through sports-betting legalizations. Washington is not only near Nevada and the gambling capital of the world in Las Vegas, but Oregon and Montana also joined the movement. So, too, did other nearby states like Wyoming and Arizona. Whenever that many neighboring places have taken steps toward the legalization of sports betting, it puts extra pressure on those that have not.
Still, a handful of those states had already given the green light when Washington rejected the last bill in 2020. The approval was given this year all of a sudden had bi-partisan support. That's not the result of peer pressure.
Rather, this is the result of the coronavirus pandemic.
So many states are feeling budget squeezes after a year-plus of the economy operating at standstills or something similar. And they can't simply bank on things returning to normal. This pandemic has, in many ways, changed the economy forever.
For starters, people are working remotely more than ever. Employees are actually quitting jobs rather than returning to offices as mandated. That inevitably has an impact on the commercial real estate market.
More remote workers also mean less of a desire to go out in general. Casinos across the United States were reeling during the pandemic, and while places like Vegas or Atlantic City will remain tourist hotspots, your everyday casinos cannot count on as much foot traffic moving forward.
The importance of capitalizing on mobile and online services has never been greater. A ton of money is already being gambled on international sportsbooks. Any shift in dynamics allows local governments, in this case, Washington, to cut into that pie.
How Much Will Washington Benefit From Sports Betting?
Never mind the remote-heavy realities of the world we live in now. Initial projections on how much Washington stands to make at a local level make a pro-sports-betting case on their own.
In Year 1, the state is expecting to earn somewhere around $50 million in tax revenue. That is massive—beyond massive, even.
More to the point, it's just a start. As mobile sports betting becomes more commonplace and more casinos establish partnerships, the numbers should go up.
Washington also stands to benefit greatly from any new operators it welcomes. Application fees are believed to begin around $500,000 a pop. Mind you, this is just to apply. It doesn't even guarantee approval.
Tax rates can eventually increase on casinos, as well. States typically start them off lower to entice extra business, but once mobile sports betting becomes more mainstream within Washington, they will have the leverage to increase the money that casinos and sportsbooks are sending their way.
Details of Washington's Sports Betting Bill
Let's cut to the chase: There is not an exact date for when Washington's legalized sports betting will take effect. Most believe it will be by the end of 2021, given how much bi-partisan support the bill boasts. But it could, in theory, take until 2022 to get everything finalized and okayed.
For now, it's more important to focus on the parameters of the bill, because like always, this isn't as simple as Washington residents visiting random online sportsbooks and laying down wagers. Here are some of the most pertinent notes from the state's legislature:
- The tax rate for casinos and sportsbooks accepting bets would start at 10 percent of their gross gaming revenue.
- Washington is not currently prepared to allow betting on college teams, just professional sports.
- Each physical location—casino, card room, racetrack, etc.—would be allowed to have one mobile sports partner. This ensures heightened competition for business while also protecting against potential monopolies of one company.
- Online-only betting services are not permitted. Every sports-wagering operator must be tied to a physical location, be it a racetrack, card room or casino. On top of that, all of these physical locations must accept sports wagers on-site. While this feels like a no-brainer, it is something operators must consider, since it means needing to have more cash on hand and the ability to handle extra foot traffic.
- Finally, the legal sports betting age in Washington would be 18 rather than 21.
Another important note about Washington's sports-betting bill to munch on: Those sports pools and fantasy leagues you play in for money would fall under the legalized umbrella. Congrats!
However, it is not currently clear what this means for online-only daily fantasy sports. The sportsbooks offering them countrywide may need to partner up with a Washington-based operator to get legal business from its residents.
Regardless of the stipulations, the main takeaway is the same: Things are changing in Washington.
Check out this list of the best online sportsbooks so you can decide which one to use for all your mobile betting needs: