Washington and its Tribes Near to Compact on More Slots

A framework for allowing most of Washington’s tribe’s to add slot machines regularly to meet market demands is on its way to Governor Jay Inslee (l.) for his approval.

The state of Washington and 27 of its 29 Indian gaming tribes have reached a tentative agreement that would allow for the number of slot machines to determined by demand.

The state Gambling Commission and four members of the legislature crafted the deal. They will vote in February whether to forward the proposal to Governor Jay Inslee.

At this time the Evergreen State has about 28,000 slot machines. Under the agreement reached last week the number of machines would be upped by 10 percent. After that the number would be determined by market forces, up to as many as 90,000.

The number of slots could also be increased by another 1,350 if the Cowlitz tribe is allowed to build in the southwest part of the state. That casino is currently tied up in federal court.

That high number is seen as very unlikely by industry experts since the gaming market overall is not expanding that rapidly. One member of the negotiating group, Senator Mike Hewitt, said he opposes the number of machines being allowed to increase in perpetuity without an agreement from the tribes to share their profits with the state.

He declared, “In my opinion, this is probably the last shot we’ll ever get” for revenue sharing.

Tribal casinos first opened more than ten years ago. It took many of the casinos that long to begin realizing the profits they consider optimal. Currently tribal gaming is a $2.2 billion market in the state. The current compacts were negotiated in 2007 with then Governor Chris Gregoire. One purpose of the current negotiations was to reach an agreement that wouldn’t have to be replayed numerous times.

Future compacts are not precluded, however, since tribes might not to update their casinos or bring in more advanced models or types of slots. The Nisqually Indian Tribe, owner of the Red Wind Casino, and the Squaxin Indian Tribe, owner of the Little Creek Casino Resort, have both expressed interest in adding hotels to their properties.

That having been said, state officials appear confident that it will take a long time for tribes to reach their maximum allowed machines.

The two tribes that did not participate in the talks were the Puyallup and Muckleshoot.