Happy Thanksgiving from GGB; Newsletter Returns December 4

Washington Card Rooms Fight for A Piece of Sports Betting Pie

Last year, Washington State lawmakers approved sports betting for the state's gaming tribes, excluding commercial operators like Maverick CEO Eric Persson (l.). Now support is growing for a bill that would permit the wagers inside card rooms and racetracks, in addition to the tribal casinos. In Part 1 (Part 2 will follow on Friday), Persson is getting his ducks in a row.

Washington Card Rooms Fight for A Piece of Sports Betting Pie

In 2020, the Washington State legislature approved sports betting but limited it to the gaming tribes, leaving commercial operators like Maverick Gaming out in the cold.

Maverick owns 19 of the state’s 44 licensed card rooms, and CEO Eric Persson fought hard to include them in the legislation; in fact, he picked them up the card rooms two years ago in anticipation of legalized sports betting.

This year, Persson has more political muscle in the form of SB-5212, co-sponsored by Senator Curtis King and majority floor leader Senator Marko Liias. The bill would allow online sports gambling inside existing card rooms and racetracks in the state. Each card room or racetrack would be allowed one mobile partner, which would be “tethered” to that brick-and-mortar location. Sports betting would be taxed at 10 percent and would be regulated by the Washington State Gambling Commission.

Licenses would cost $100,000, and no licenses would be issued until after the tribes finish their gaming compact negotiations with the state.

Growing Support

In an interview with GGB News, Persson said, “We have more than twice as many sponsors as we did last year, and bipartisan support. People are still signing. We are pushing really hard to allow Maverick to be included in sports betting.”

Persson rejects the idea that he’s an out-of-stater trying to roll the locals. “I grew up in Hoquiam,” on the state’s west coast, he said.

“Maverick has only been in the state for two years, and our efforts last year were to let people be aware of me. The tribes have run successful enterprises for a long time, but we’re rapidly catching up–you see that from the support. We could provide $50 million in taxes annually. In Washington, unemployment is high and there are a lot of social needs. This is a great way to help fill that gap.”

His “getting-to-know-you” campaign has borne fruit, Persson said. “We have lots of support at the local level. We’re often the largest taxpayers in the towns we’re in. This bill gives half to the state and half to the local community. As an example, legislation passed last year allowed tribes to annex land and not pay taxes on it. So around $30 million will disappear at the city level. The city then has to figure out how to fill out its budget. This is a great way to do that.”

The $50 million in annual tax revenues Persson projects is based on a mature sports betting market. “Look at any state and you don’t start at a fully mature market. When it’s fully mature, its worth about $50 million annually.”

Allowing card clubs to offer sports betting will help the economy and “add to the neighborhood,” he said. “If you have this amenity and there’s sports betting at the card rooms, you might add 250 jobs and the secondary effect of those jobs. We have over 2,200 employees in the state. They’re great-paying jobs with an average salary above $75,000. They’re able to support their families, and they’re needed in this state.”

In response to those who say more gaming will encourage addiction, Persson said, “We’ve been operating responsibly. We have a statewide self-exclusion database, so you can’t shop for casinos that will let you play. We gave over $200,000 to fight gaming addiction, and we will do that each year. We’re committed to that, and people are taking notice.”

In Part 2 to be published tomorrow, learn how the card rooms could be impacted if not permitted to participate in sports betting, and why the tribes say splitting the market would be devastating to them.

Articles by Author: David Ross

David D. Ross edits the Escondido Times-Advocate and Valley Roadrunner newspapers. A freelance journalist for over 40 years, Ross is knowledgeable about San Diego's backcountry and has written on tourism in Julian, Palomar Mountain, San Diego Safari Park—and the area’s casinos. He has a master’s degree in military history from Norwich University.