Characterized by contradiction and frequent modification, the intricate web of laws and regulations in the State of Washington is often difficult to decipher. A rather unfruitful collaboration between the state lawmakers, tribal gaming commissions, and numerous lobby groups usually leads to laws that are more than difficult to understand. This is especially true for gambling laws.
Recent events in the Evergreen State, however, raise the hopes of its citizens that things are changing for the better. After Governor Jay Inslee signed a piece of legislation to authorize sports wagers this May, Washington became the 21st state in the Union to legalize betting on sports.
Unfortunately, reduced government function caused by the coronavirus pandemic makes it difficult to estimate when this law will come into force.
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Sadly, online gambling is against the law in Washington. To make things worse, a bill passed in 2006 made online gambling a Class C felony. Consequently, participation in any kind of illegal online betting will be sanctioned by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The traditionally conservative government of the State of Washington prides itself on having such a draconian online gambling law.
When it comes to details, the law is yet to be fully defined. However, some crucial points are already known:
Talking about contradictions, land-based gambling games (poker, blackjack, etc.) are absolutely legal across the state. Of course, a game has to be at an authorized location, most of which are Native-owned. It is also possible to obtain a live poker license if certain conditions are met.
They are as follows:
Interestingly enough, if you have a group of reliable acquaintances who like to gamble and you don’t need anyone to regulate and monitor your game, you have nothing to worry about. Social gambling, according to the Washington State legislature, is considered legal as long as the players compete even-handedly, the house doesn’t earn any commission, and the money earned by players is the result of their personal success in the game.
This is what the section 9.46.0269 of the Revised Code says about social gambling:
“Player,” as used in this chapter, means a natural person who engages, on equal terms with the other participants, and solely as a contestant or bettor, in any form of gambling in which no person may receive or become entitled to receive any profit therefrom other than personal gambling winnings, and without otherwise rendering any material assistance to the establishment, conduct or operation of a particular gambling activity.
A natural person who gambles at a social game of chance on equal terms with the other participants shall not be considered as rendering material assistance to the establishment…
All things considered, it is quite obvious that the ban on online gambling in the State of Washington is not just a mere coincidence. Slightly due to the complicated process of lawmaking and mostly due to the influence of certain interest groups, online betting is illegal for now.
At the same time, Washingtonians have a wide range of international offshore gambling sites at their disposal. Should you decide to try your luck on one of these offshore sites, make sure to talk to your lawyer before doing so.
There are 29 tribal casinos currently operating in this state. When the sports betting law finally comes into force, these casinos will be the only ones to legally offer sports betting in Washington. Rumor has it that the tribes are still negotiating regulatory agreements with the state, hoping to reinforce their already great position in the gambling market. This, perhaps, is another reason for the delay of this long-awaited law.
The public already recognized this law as a major win for the Indian gaming tribes. The Washington Indian Gaming Association representatives praise the decision while their competitors see it as discriminatory. The CEO of Maverick Gaming wrote directly to the Governor, describing the legislation as “unnecessarily divisive”. The response, it seems, shan’t come any time soon.
The way things appear to be at the moment, the future of online gambling in Washington is not very bright. Very strict laws make it too much of a risk even for the most passionate players. However, nobody knows what the future will bring. The situation, and therefore the law, may change in a year or two.
Perhaps, sometime soon, the state will recognize the potential of online betting. It is estimated that by ignoring the demands for the legalization of online gambling, the legislature is literally giving up millions of dollars in tax revenue. This money, of course, could be used in various ways to improve the lives of regular people.
There are 29 Native American tribes currently living in Washington State. All of them are officially recognized by the Federal Government and all of them have Class III gaming compacts. According to official data, there are 29 casinos operated by 22 tribes. All recognized tribes have a gaming compact.
In order to explain the importance of gaming compacts, we should point out that Class III games may include: poker, blackjack, Red Dog, craps, roulette, baccarat, off-track betting, keno, progressive pull-tabs, pai gow poker, Big 6, and electronic tribal lottery terminals.
The story of reservation casinos begins in 1976. The Puyallup Reservation was the first to open a casino but unfortunately, it was shut down two years later by the federal government. After the state lottery was authorized in 1982, the Tulalip, Muckleshoot, and Puyallup started offering the first tribal bingo games. As new games and betting systems were authorized by the government, more and more tribes decided to join the business.
Today, people from all around the US and Canada enjoy betting in reservation casinos. These can be found in many states and some of the most popular in the state of Washington are:
|12 Tribes Resort Casino||28968 Highway 97||500+||Omak, WA|
|Lucky Eagle Casino||12888 188th Avenue SW||1200||Rochester, WA|
|Nisqually Red Wind Casino||12819 Yelm Highway SE||1500||Olympia, WA|
|Snoqualmie Casino||37500 SE North Bend Way||1700||Snoqualmie, WA|
|Nooksack Northwood Casino||9750 Northwood Road||400+||Lynden, WA|
|Little Creek Casino Resort||91 West State Route 108||480||Shelton, WA|
|The Point Casino & Hotel||7989 NE Salish Lane||600+||Kingston, WA|
|Angel of the Winds Casino Resort||3438 Stoluckquamish Lane||1400||Arlington, WA|
|Mill Bay Casino||455 Wapato Lake Road||620||Manson, WA|
|Suquamish Clearwater Casino Resort||15347 Suquamish Way NE||1200||Suquamish, WA|
|Coulee Dam Casino||515 Birch Street||150+||Coulee Dam, WA|
|Emerald Queen Casino & Hotel in Fife||5700 Pacific Highway E||2100||Fife, WA|
|Swinomish Casino & Lodge||12885 Casino Drive||800||Anacortes, WA|
|Ilani Casino Resort||1 Cowlitz Way||2500||Ridgefield, WA|
|Emerald Queen Casino I-5||2024 E 29th Street||2000+||Tacoma, WA|
|Tulalip Resort||10200 Quil Ceda Boulevard||2000+||Tulalip, WA|
|Seven Cedars Casinos||270756 Highway 101||580||Sequim, WA|
|Colville Tribal Casinos||729 Jackson Street||500+||Omak, WA|
|Emerald Queen Hotel & Casinos||5700 Pacific Highway||2100||Fife, WA|
|Quinault Beach Resort & Casino||78 State Route 115||500+||Ocean Shores, WA|
|Yakama Legends Casino Hotel||580 Fort Road||1500||Toppenish, WA|
|Northern Quest Resort & Casino||100 North Hayford Road||1600||Airway Heights, WA|
|Shoalwater Bay Casino||4112 Highway 105||200+||Tokeland, WA|
|Silver Reef Casino||4876 Haxton Way||200||Ferndale, WA|
|Lucky Dog Casino||19330 Highway 101||250||Skokomish Nation, WA|
As we already mentioned, many Native Indian organizations are very influential in certain states. When it comes to the gambling industry, they often influence the legislation. In some states, they even have a monopoly on certain types of bets.
Since the great majority of Native Indian casinos are located on tribal land throughout the United States, most states have a very limited ability to prohibit gambling there. The sovereignty of these areas was finally recognized and codified by the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
To sum up, the online gambling law in the State of Washington is crystal clear. All kinds of internet gambling activities are strictly prohibited. The fines and punishments for breaking this law are rather rigorous and they are not worth the risk. Until this law is changed, Washingtonians can try their luck in some of the neighboring states in which online betting is already legalized.
When it comes to other (land-based) games offered, you have a wide variety to choose from. Keep in mind that laws and legislations change quickly these days. If you play regularly, make sure you know what’s going on in the gambling industry. If you have any doubts, keep your lawyer on speed dial!
No, online casinos are not legal in Washington. In fact, all kinds of online gambling activities are against the law at the moment. Since the law is very strict, we strongly advise against taking any risks.
Up until recently, sports betting of any kind was prohibited in this state. Today, land-based sports betting is legal while online sports betting is still against the law.
Yes, that would be illegal in the state of Washington and we strongly advise against it.
Yes, if you have enough money to afford one, there are states in which you can buy or build a casino.
Currently, you have to be at least eighteen years old in order to enter a casino in this state. In some casinos, however, the age limit is 21, so make sure you check all the details before you hit the road.
At this point, it is very difficult to tell. The current situation in the gambling market in Washington makes it very unlikely. Still, there are those who hope the recently introduced sports betting law will lead to bigger changes in the near future.