Dori: It’s time for Washington to legalize sports gambling

Feb 1, 2020, 8:05 AM

sports betting, sports gambling...

Betting odds are displayed on a board in the sports book at the South Point hotel and casino in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

(AP Photo/John Locher, File)

The Super Bowl is this Sunday, and it is estimated that $400 million will be legally gambled on the game in the United States. But there will be many times that illegally gambled offshore. And the state of Washington will not see one penny of any of that sports gambling money.

A couple of years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court opened up sports betting in states across the country. It’s up to the individual states if they want to take advantage of that free revenue. New Jersey, which just implemented sports betting, has now passed Nevada in the number of dollars wagered on sporting events — and the state, of course, gets a huge cut of that.

As could Washington. It is estimated that if we legalized sports gambling, we could add $50 million per year to state coffers.

I know a little about gambling. I know that it is not a completely victim-less crime. There is a certain percentage of people who will become addicted, and a psychological addiction like gambling is every bit as powerful as addiction to a drug like heroin. However, anyone who wants to get a bet down currently will figure out a way to get a bet down, whether it’s through an offshore account, a bookie, or with friends. And the state gets nothing out of that.

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Two bills in Olympia would legalize sports gambling — but only one would provide revenue for the state. House Bill 1975 would make sports betting at casinos on reservations legal. I like the tribes and I like their casinos, but it doesn’t make any sense to me to open up a new market worth $50 million in taxation and not give the state a piece of that. House Bill 2478 would allow sports betting at card rooms, race tracks, and tribal casinos, so the state would get a cut of the non-tribal revenue.

None of this is enough. What is happening in other states across the country is, if you are a resident of the state, you can open up a sports gambling account. You can’t bet more than is in the account, which helps keep things from getting out of control. After you open the account with a bookie, you open an app on your phone and gamble.

Given that it is so pervasive and widespread across the nation, and given that we are normally at the forefront of legalizing forbidden things, this is really bizarre. We were one of the first states to legalize marijuana. Personal possession amounts of heroin and meth are not prosecuted in King County. But if you play one hand of 25-cent Texas Hold ‘Em on your computer, you could be charged with a felony. You could go to prison for 10 years and lose your voting rights. I broke the story years ago of the senator who got bought off to introduce that bill, making Washington the most punitive state for online gambling.

This is voluntary taxation. If you don’t want to pay the piper, you don’t have to gamble.

We’re leaving $50 million on the table. It’s time for the state to get in the game.

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from 12-3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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