Colville Tribe Opposes Washington Sports Gaming Bill

Washington’s tribes are opposed to a bill that would open up sports betting to commercial card rooms. The most recent to express their opposition to Senate Bill 5252 are the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation.

The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, operators of the 12 Tribes Resort Casino, Mill Bay Casino and Coulee Dam Casino in Washington State have announced their opposition to Senate Bill 5212 in the legislature.

The Colville Business Council voted February 4 to “strongly” oppose the bill, which would allow commercial card rooms and racetracks to offer sports betting. The wagers are currently limited to the more than 24 tribal casinos in the state.

Lawmakers approved sports betting for tribes last year, which set in motion renegotiations of existing tribal-state gaming compacts. About five tribes are taking part in the negotiations, which would let them offer sportsbooks.

Indian Gaming Association Executive Director Rebecca George said the bets should be limited to tribal operations. “This was done to maintain the integrity and the safety of gaming in Washington, and to ensure the benefits go to our state’s residents, not other states or private company investors,” she said. “This proposal threatens to up-end that approach.”

One of the authors of the bill, Senator Curtis King, commented, “Last year, we gave the tribes all of the authority to do sports wagering in their casinos, which brings absolutely no revenue to the state of Washington.”

The state has more than 40 card rooms that pay licensing fees to the state, he said. “They employ people with good family-wage jobs in most cases, and provide excellent benefits to those people as well. That doesn’t mean the tribes don’t do the same… This is about fairness, equity, all of that.”

King argued that the tribes control “the vast majority of the gambling that goes on with this state,” and said his bill wouldn’t touch that revenue. “We need to support our cardrooms that are scattered all around this state.”

In testimony before lawmakers, George pointed out that tribes fund government services with gaming, such as “health care, education, natural resources, basic infrastructure.” She added, “Tribal governments have very few options when it comes to raising revenue. This is our tax base. Any impact to our properties would mean a decline in our essential services to Indians and the surrounding, often rural, communities.”

Supporters of the bill assert that its 10 percent tax on gaming revenue could raise $50 million annually. Senator Derek Stanford is among those who view this claim with suspicion: “The fiscal note is reflecting somewhere along the lines of $3 to $4 million to the state,” he said. “I think we should be careful about the expectations we are setting up when talking about this.”

George took the opportunity to lob a verbal grenade against the bill’s biggest cheerleader, Maverick Gaming, characterizing the bill as one that would “enhance the bottom line of a Nevada company.”

Maverick Gaming operates 19 casinos in Washington and currently pays $27 million in local taxes. Its CEO, Eric Persson, who just moved the company’s headquarters to Washington, tells anyone who will listen that he was born in the state.