Washington State To Enter The Sports Betting Fray In Pacific Northwest

Written By George Myers on March 24, 2020
Washington State sports betting

America’s sports betting industry is in a precarious position.

The global outbreak of COVID-19 has led to the cancellation of nearly every major sporting event, including March Madness and at least a month’s slate of NBA contests.

The titanic development means sportsbooks will likely see a major drop in revenue. It was anticipated to be one of the most lucrative months of the year.

But, inevitably, this too shall pass.

When it does, Oregon’s sports betting field will be left with its own revamped situation.

Washington legislators give thumbs-up to sports gambling

Washington state representatives voted in early March to approve a bill that OKs the initiation of sports betting in the state’s tribal casinos. The vote, which was passed overwhelmingly 83-14, sent the bill to Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk for a final, formal signature.

His signature must come by early April.

Gambling could take several months to start in Washington due to the need for state officials to reach a new pact agreement with tribes. Still, the approval was a major step forward. The state has balked at proposed gambling expansions in previous years.

Washington residents will likely be able to bet on professional and college sports in 2020, although wagers will have to be placed at Indian casinos.

However, WA bettors will not be able to bet on college teams in the state itself. It blocks a lucrative market that would have included University of Washington basketball and football and Washington State University football.

What does this mean for Oregon?

Oregon, which joined the legalized betting movement in 2019 and is will likely expand this year, is unlikely to be impacted by its northern neighbor’s decision to join the fray.

Mainly, this is because of the restrictive nature of sports betting that is likely to be introduced to Washingtonians.

While the Oregon Lottery plans to bring kiosks for sports wagering to bars and retailers in an effort to grow its sportsbook app, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting, Washington is set to restrict its betting to tribal casinos.

Plus, anyone who wants to bet on a Washington college sporting event would still need to cross the border into Oregon.

And, in contrast to Washington, college sports betting could even expand in Oregon.

While tribal casino sportsbooks in the state allow college-sporting bets, the Oregon Lottery has, so far, stayed away from NCAA-based gaming. That could change, however, as the lottery has begun considering a philosophical shift, according to OPB.

Oregon hopes to rebound from an underwhelming start

Oregon is lucky Washington doesn’t present much of a risk. It’s had a hard enough time making money in the current climate.

Steps are indeed being made to grow Oregon sports betting and the state’s only sportsbook app. But in many ways, those attempts are motivated by an unexpectedly poor start.

While state officials had expected to make millions in the first year following the Scoreboard app’s launch last fall, a more recent project has shown the Oregon Lottery anticipates a loss of $5.3 million in the first three-quarters of the fiscal year, as recently noted by PlayUSA.

Measures like expanded college sports betting and increased visibility in heavy-trafficked areas are likely to help, although more complex causes like unexpected low margins will also need repairing.

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George Myers

George Myers is a writer with extensive experience in both news and sports reporting. He has primarily covered baseball and football, along with the intersection of sports and lawmaking.

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