OLYMPIA – A bill working through the Washington legislature could open the opportunity for sports gambling to be added to tribal-state compacts – a step that the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Strom Peterson (D-21st), called a demonstration of “the respect due to these nations that have been in the state of Washington for thousands of years.”

The Washington House Commerce and Gaming Committee held a public hearing on HB-2638, Jan. 27.

In its current form, HB-2638 would “amend the state’s

Gambling Act to add authorization for federally-recognized Indian tribes in the state to agree to amend the state and tribes’ gaming compacts to allow sports wagering subject to various requirements in the bill,” according to committee staff.

The bill would “allow sports wagering to be transmitted over the internet, so long as the wager is placed and accepted at a tribe’s gaming facility while the customer placing the wager is physically present at that facility,” according to committee staff.

The bill also excludes collegiate institutions from within the state to being subject to the gambling and it creates new crimes, related to influencing the outcome of sporting events.

Recently, Peterson, who chairs the Commerce and Gaming Committee, visited the Colville Reservations and others across the state and was struck by the impact of gaming to those communities, he told the committee.

 “Every year we come down to Olympia and we talk about some pretty major issues,” said Peterson. “We talk about early childhood education. We talk about wraparound services for drug addiction. We talk about housing. We talk about what we can do to care for an aging population, what we can do to help clean up the environment. What struck me is that with every visit to Indian Country across the state these are the things that they’re doing in their communities and not only for their communities but for the surrounding communities of Washingtonians.”

Across the state, tribal governments employ nearly 60,000 people, which translates into $1.5 billion in wages and benefits and over $722 million in state and local tax revenue. Overall, tribal gaming adds $5.7 billion to the state’s economy and contributes $35 million to the state’s charities and non-profits, according to Washington Indian Gaming Association’s Rebecca Kaldor, who addressed the committee along with a panel of tribal leaders from around the state.

The Colville Tribes is a member tribe of WIGA.

“Tribes in Washington invest in our state’s people, our culture, our natural resources, infrastructure, land and communities,” said Kaldor. “Since the inception of Indian gaming as we know it, we have seen significant, life-changing improvements in our health, our education, our income and our opportunity. Tribal economies have grown, but we still have a long way to go. Indian gaming is government gaming, much like your state lottery. Tribal gaming helps tribal governments pay for essential government services and we do this in some of the poorest, most rural communities in our state.”

Kaldor further noted gaming is “the highest regulated industry in our state, if not the nation, with three levels of regulation both at the federal, the state and the tribal level of oversight. This legislation builds on that experience. The tribes and state have worked together for over twenty years. This experience in regulating gambling is exactly what is needed to keep sports bettering safe, honest and reliable.”

The Colville Business Council issued a letter of support of the bill to the committee members in January.

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