Washington Tribes Critical Of State Sports-Betting Rules

October 18, 2021
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As more tribal casinos in Washington state begin to accept wagers on games, behind the scenes, regulators are inching closer to approving another set of rules to be added to state gambling regulations by the end of the year.

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As more tribal casinos in Washington state begin to accept wagers on games, behind the scenes, regulators are inching closer to approving another set of rules to be added to state gambling regulations by the end of the year.

At their meeting in July, state gaming commissioners signed off on the final draft of rules to implement sports betting, but delayed approving technical rules to give their staff time to make additional changes.

The extra three months also gave the Washington State Gambling Commission (WSGC) staff time to address concerns expressed by sports-betting companies and tribal gaming operators.

Tim Woolsey, an attorney for the Suquamish Tribe, expressed his concern that issues raised by tribal operators during those conversations were not included in the revised rules published last week.

Among the myriad of revised rules were regulations ensuring sports wagering vendors make sure their representatives are licensed, geolocation requirements for on-reservation mobile wagering, recording of cash receipts, and monitoring for unusual and suspicious wagering activity.

Ashlie Laydon, rules coordinator with the WSGC, said the technical rules language mirrors the state-tribal gaming compacts regarding the need for sports wagering systems to meet or exceed GLI-33 standards, providing additional clarity for vendors.

Laydon told commissioners on Thursday that officials met with tribal operators last month, who suggested the draft rule language be amended to only refer to the compacts or internal controls; however, staff chose not to implement that change for a few reasons.

“[These rules] are designed to work in combination with tribal regulatory authority to determine suitability,” Laydon said.

They also bridge gaps not covered in tribal-state compacts, such as areas where compacts do not outline specific sports wagering vendor requirements, areas where more detail is necessary for enforcement, and to address non-tribal vendor related activities where information sharing may be necessary.

“Further, internal controls are not publicly accessible standards, which are necessary for rules under the [state’s] Administrative Procedure Act,” Laydon said.

Woolsey said the Suquamish Tribe was disappointed the commission is ignoring the request by the tribes.

“I just want to remind the commission that the state of Washington has waived its sovereign immunity under the compacts and if we are continuing down this path the tribes may seek other remedies to fix this situation,” Woolsey said.

Woolsey reminded commissioners that the “state’s attempt to regulate Indian gaming has been well litigated and this is just another sign of that.”

Commissioner Kristine Reeves asked Woolsey if he spoke on behalf of all the tribes in Washington.

“I think the commission is well aware of the tribes’ displeasure,” he said. “I speak for the Suquamish Tribe.”

Commission vice-chair Julia Patterson disagreed with Woolsey, saying she supported moving forward with the regulations as written.

“[Our] staff had taken to heart the concerns expressed by the tribes,” Patterson said. “We have new language … to address these concerns, those concerns having to do with us not negotiating in good faith or violating IGRA (Indian Gaming Regulatory Act).”

Patterson said regulators “bifurcated their rules in August because of those concerns.” She said the reworked regulations are “worthy of being moved forward.”

Bud Sizemore, chairman of the gambling commission, said it was important to “maintain our compact relationship” with the tribes but there are “gaps and holes that are not addressed in our relationship with these … vendors.”

“I believe our staff has made these regulations as skinny as they could to allow our agency to do the work to benefit every resident of the state of Washington,” Sizemore said.

The commission voted 3-0, with commissioner Alicia Levy absent, to move the draft language forward allowing it to be published in the Washington State Register on November 3, which starts the official comment period that lasts at least 20 days.

Commissioners are expected to take a final vote in December.

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