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Kevin Smith

I-Gaming Bill passes House in Washington State

4 March 2004

Washington State took a big step on Wednesday in becoming the next U.S. state to offer advance deposit wagering via the Internet and telephone on horse races.

The Washington House of Representatives passed a tweaked Senate Bill 6481 with a 79-17 vote. The bill now goes back to the Senate, where it passed by a vote of 38-10 last month.

The bill will add Washington to the growing number of states that offer betting for residents through online and phone accounts. Players initially fund the accounts and then can access them through approved Web sites or telephone betting systems. Punters can then bet on the horses without having to be at the track or a state approved Off Track Betting facility.

A main reason cited in both the House and Senate for passing the bill was a prevailing feeling among lawmakers that the state was losing valuable revenue as residents bet with other advance deposit wagering systems, despite those services being illegal in Washington.

"This is already happening," said Sen. Mike Hewitt, one of the bill's main sponsors. "All we're trying to do is get our portion back."

Emerald Downs, the state's most well known track, said handle has dropped the last two years, with out-of-state ADW systems cited as the main culprit.

Emerald Downs would also have the authority to negotiate a telephone and online wagering agreement that would force out-of-state providers to give the Washington racing industry a percentage of the money they handle from Washington residents.

The bill would also increase simulcasting at Emerald Downs and allow two more off-track wagering facilities in King County.

If the tweaked bill by the House passes in the Senate, which is expected to happen within the next week, the bill will be sent to Gov. Gary Locke who will likely support the bill, according to legislative sources.

Mike Hewitt feels it is easier for Washington to regulate a system of its own rather than to try to keep consumers from wagering with other out-of-state services.

Rep. Jeff Morris said he supported the bill because he felt trying to prohibit I-gaming wasn't a viable option.

"You can't really stop the Internet," he said. "It doesn't have borders."

The House made some minor changes to a version the Senate passed last month, including a sunset provision, so the bill must go back to the Senate for another vote.

Antigambling lawmakers argued strongly against the bill, saying it amounts to a massive expansion of legalized betting in Washington that will increase problems associated with gambling addicts.

The current legislative session in Washington is schedule to conclude on March 11.

Senate Bill 6481

I-Gaming Bill passes House in Washington State is republished from
Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith