Maverick Gaming pushes for expansion of sports betting beyond tribal casinos

Nevada-based Maverick Gaming is pushing for the expansion of sports betting outside of Washington state tribal casinos through Senate Bill 5212.

Last March, Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law legislation that cleared the way for only Washington’s tribal casinos to offer sports wagering, following a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision.

Agreements are still being worked out between the state and tribes, who said they’ll likely start offering sports betting at their casinos later in 2021.

“We respect the rights that tribes are getting in sports betting so we’re not going to go live until their compacts are done,” said Maverick Gaming CEO Eric Persson, a Washington native, in an interview with KIRO 7.

SB 5212 proposes a 10% tax of gaming revenue from sports wagering licensees and would only allow card rooms and racetracks currently licensed by the state to offer this type of wagering, requiring an additional $100,000 site license fee.

“This is the best type of tax, consumption tax,” said Persson. “It doesn’t tax the people who don’t want to participate in it.”

Maverick Gaming, an employer of 2,200 people in its 19 Washington card rooms, claims tens of millions of dollars in taxes will be collected for the state and local cities.

“We estimate we can raise $50 million dollars annually in taxes,” said Persson.

At a public hearing held by lawmakers last week, concerns were raised about that estimate.

“Their estimates are widely inflated or they’re talking about a massive expansion,” said Washington Indian Gaming Association Executive Director Rebecca George. “The gaming dollars in this state don’t support the claims whatsoever.”

The Washington Indian Gaming Association, representing tribal casinos, said the expansion of sports betting outside of their casinos would take money away from poor communities and couldn’t come at a worse time.

“Just like the state lottery raises revenue for essential governmental services, that’s exactly what tribal gaming does for Indian country,” said George.

Limitations would include not allowing people to bet on in-state collegiate teams or from home, according to Democratic State Sen. Marko Liias of the 21st Legislative District, who co-sponsored the bill along with Republican State Sen. Curtis King of the 14th Legislative District.

The Washington State Gambling Commission said there were “technical” concerns with the way the legislation is currently written, including a lack of clarity in some areas, that the commission hopes to work with the bill’s sponsors to address moving forward.

“Because of the need for a lot of technical cleanup, it’s actually unclear if it would actually just be on premise in its current form,” said Washington State Gambling commission Legal & Legislative Manager Brian Considine.

Sen. King spoke during a Senate Labor, Commerce & Tribal Affairs Committee public hearing on the bill last week.

“Tribes, as you know, have rights to the casinos and the vast majority of the gambling that goes on in-state and they make millions of dollars off that every year,” said King. “This doesn’t touch any of that.”

Sen. Liias told KIRO 7 in an interview that taxes raised for sports betting at nontribal card rooms, if signed into law, wouldn’t “save our budgets,” but would help local jurisdictions that have taken a hit because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There are also non-tribal interests that are opposed that worry about the existing problem of problem gambling and existing impacts of gaming in our state,” said State senator Liias. “I want to listen to all those concerns.”

The American Gaming Association said taxes raised from sports wagering in states that already allow it have been a lifeline during the pandemic.

“Today 25 states and the District of Columbia have legalized sports betting,” said American Gaming Association President and CEO Bill Miller. “And more are on the way.”

Teamsters Local 117, that union represents Maverick Gaming employees, supports the sports betting legislation that Persson said would “probably add 10 to 15 employees per property” across the state.

Persson said Maverick Gaming is not trying to step on toes, but wants a piece of Washington’s sports betting pie.

“Maverick Gaming is going to be pushing for this until we bust down that door,” said Persson.