Estimating a date for Washington sports betting has become very complicated due to the upcoming 2021 Olympic Games in South Korea. Also, the threat of potential legal action by local cardroom owners from around the state made things even more complicated. Until recently, Washington sports books had mostly remained quiet about their plans for the games. However, all of that changed over the past couple of weeks. The Washington State Supreme Court just handed down a major ruling in favor of the three owners of the Washington Stateoresportsbetting outlet called WSB Nation.
The decision involved the WSB Nation gambling site and its owner, Steve Williams. The Court decided that the state lottery and casino board violated the state lottery regulations when they denied WSB Nation’s applications for tax exempt status. Specifically, the Court said that the state lottery and casino did not have a legitimate reason to deny the application. In the end, the Court ordered the state to allow WSB Nation to open a sports betting site in the state. Here is what the Court said:
“petitioner is not, and should not be, allowed to operate a sports gambling website within the jurisdiction of the State of Washington because the State is not in violation of the Commerce Clause or the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution.” Steve Williams, one of the founders of WSB Nation, and the site’s operator, submitted two major challenges before the Washington State Supreme Court. The first challenge involved the constitutionality of a law that makes it illegal to place wagers on the Washington Stateoresportsbetting lottery and tribal casinos. This law was passed in 2021 by the state legislature. The second challenge involved the constitutionality of the state lottery’s non-profit status.
In refusing to recognize the state’s authority over gaming and sports betting, the Washington State Supreme Court declared that it was not law, without question, that the state had the power to ban sports betting on its licensed gaming establishments. The Court further found that there was no proof that placing wagers on the state-regulated lotteries was either unreasonably risky or inherently dangerous. Further, it found there was no evidence that the state was somehow being forced to legalize sports betting or that it was being targeted for that reason. Rather, the State was being unreasonably restrictive in setting its rules for licensing gambling establishments.
The Court found its power of attorney was not based on the mere fact that the individual knew he held an interest in the conduct of gambling at the state-licensed establishment but that he actually had a substantial and concrete interest in the gaming of the horses in the state. Therefore, it held that the power of attorney extended only to those interested in wagers on equine sports. In the future, it may be the case that the state has a legitimate interest in regulating sports betting as long as it does not unreasonably limit the types of wagers that can be placed on sporting events. There have been attempts in other states to pass statutes criminalizing sports wagers where the wagers are placed on state regulated gambling establishments. If you are going to place a bet on a race in another state, you should make sure that you are familiar with the laws and regulations in that state.
One state that has been the center of a legal tug of war regarding sports betting is Washington State. Ever since Congress allowed states to institute legalized sports betting, there have been debates between sports leagues and state lawmakers over whether or not the state should preemptively legalized sports betting. Proponents of legalized sports betting argue that Washington State already has the preexisting law to protect individuals from harm and that it is the state’s prerogative to protect against unfair competition by preventing sports betting on state regulated gambling establishments. Opponents of legalized sports betting argue that Washington State should not become the precedent for other states to follow.
In 2021, the state legislature passed a bill which allows individuals to place bets on any sporting event that uses Washington State copyrighted sports or games. The original intent behind this move was to encourage sports betting. However, since the initial passing of the law, many members of the legislature and the Washington State Gaming Control Board have criticized the process as unworkable, ineffective, and therefore unnecessary.
As a result, the state has been under fire from the Washington State Supreme Court. Last March, the court struck down the portion of the law which prohibited wagering on college football, basketball, hockey, baseball, soccer, or softball, among other games. Critics of the new law have cited a supposed conflict between allowing people to bet on games that are generally considered to be non-sports and allowing the state to tax revenues that would be derived from placing bets on games not covered by legitimate gambling methods. The Court did not directly address the question of whether or not the state has the right to tax revenues derived from the sports betting industry. In light of this, a majority of the Court found that the portion of the law requiring individuals to place bets on games they ordinarily enjoy was unconstitutionally vague.