Washington Gambling Laws
Gambling in Washington offers a range of liberal betting regulations. The gambling laws cover a variety of Washington casinos and card clubs spread throughout the state. The horse racing industry dates all-the-way-back to 1933, including both off-track and live-betting options. Local jurisdictions have been granted the authority by the state to self-regulate charitable gaming. A State Lottery is offered to the state’s residents.
See table below for a quick-and-easy overview of gambling laws in Washington including betting on sports, casinos online, online gambling laws etc.
|Gambling Type||Legal Land-Based||Legal Online|
|Fantasy Sports (DFS)||N/A||No|
Washington Gambling Tax Rate
There is a no tax on gambling winnings in Washington.
Federal taxes may apply to large wins.
Washington Legal Gambling Age
Sports Betting Laws in Washington
The doors opened for the potential of enacting Washington Sports Betting in May 2018 when the landscape of U.S. sports betting laws changed overnight.
That month, the U.S. Supreme Court of 2018 overturned the generation-long Federal nationwide ban of sports betting and gave each state (including Washington) the capability to rule on the legality of betting on sports for themselves.
Sports Betting in Washington
Despite that U.S. Supreme Court ruling, gambling laws in Washington clearly define sports betting as an illegal act.
Whilst even DFS is considered to be illegal, Washington State’s sports bettors do have legal sports betting options in the form of horse racing on which to wager legally.
Any further forms of sports betting such as betting on your favorite team, the Seattle Mariners or Seahawks, are considered to be illegal until Washington’s lawmakers get onboard with legalizing sports betting.
As yet, there have been no attempts by State’s Legislators in Washington to legalize sports betting and no such debates are currently on the legislative agenda. We will advise you if laws look like they may be amended to permit sports wagering.
Is Sports Betting Online Legal in Washington?
The Evergreen State of Washington does not currently offer online sports betting for either its residents-or-visitors to the Pacific Northwest State.
In 2006, Senate Bill SSB 6613 was passed in Washington State to curb any potential online gambling of any kind including online sports betting. The resulting law is one of the harshest in the country and deemed internet betting to be a Class C felony (fines of up to $10 000 and a potential 5 years in prison) in the State of Washington. Fortunately, no-one has ever been charged under this law (to date), as enforcement is a difficult process.
Regardless, legal online sports betting has some hurdles to overcome before it joins the other forms of legal gambling in Washington.
Meanwhile, sports bettors in the Evergreen State can place bets online for horse and greyhound racing.
Games of Skill are also available to play online, and seemingly exempt from the State’s strict gambling laws, due to a loophole in the State Code of Washington’s definition of gambling under (9.46.0237);
‘risking something of value upon the outcome of a contest of chance’.
Casinos in Washington
Washington Land-Based and Cruise Casinos
Washington state is a haven for casino gamblers with a huge choice of venues for its players. Mostly on Tribal lands, there are more than 100 casinos that were created during the 1990’s after compacts were signed between the tribes and the state.
Cruise Casinos also operate out of Seattle where the ships sail the required 3 miles to reach international waters in order to offer full casino services to their clientele. Charity casinos round out the other fully legal casino options in Washington.
Online Casinos in Washington
Whilst the fantastic land-based casino industry is a boon for players in Washington, online casinos are an absolute no-no. (Please see above section ‘Is Sports Betting Online Legal in Washington?’ for full details on the harsh punishments for illegal online gambling).
Therefore, online players in the State of Washington are advised to solely participate in LEGAL online gambling games (i.e. Currently – Games of Skill and Horse and Greyhound Racing). Online players in the Evergreen State should steer clear of using U.S. based online casinos, or off-shore sites, until Washington State legislators agree to legalize online gambling.
Horse Racing Betting in Washington
In the Evergreen State, the Washington Horse Racing Commission (WHRC) oversees and administers tracks, races, animal welfare and licensing of horse racing and horse racing betting.
Horse and Greyhound racing betting can only be conducted online in Washington and a network of off-track betting locations supplies horse racing betting facilities only.
Track Side: There are 5 tracks in Washington State offering live horse racing betting and simulcast racing betting services.
Off-Track Betting (OTB) in Washington
OTB Betting is permitted in Washington at a network of 10 designated OTB branches.
Online Betting on Horse Racing in Washington
Despite the state’s stance on online gambling, Horse Racing Betting Online is readily available to Washington’s visitors and residents.
It’s important to note that Horse Racing Betting websites are actually legal in Washington State. The Racing Commission specifically lists several sites as legal, licensed and authorized to take bets online for horse racing. It is possible to visit and place wagers online without any fear of breaking Washington’s harsh online gambling law.
Visitors and residents of Washington can find attractive online odds on thoroughbred racing in the U.S. and all major horse racing venues worldwide directly from their tablets, phones, other mobile devices or home computers.
Washington Daily Fantasy Sports Law
Federal lawmakers have determined that Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) competitions are not gambling at all and they are determined to be games of skill, based on the knowledge of a player being the primary factor in influencing the outcome.
Despite the clarity on the issue at the Federal level, Washington State still sees DFS as illegal despite an attempt by the State’s lawmakers in 2017 to legalize the pastime with Bill SB 5169.
Unfortunately, the bill offered no rules, regulations or player protection definitions. Once the bill has been fine-tuned with a clear set of regulations, passage of the bill through the House may become easier and allow DFS sites to operate freely and accept players from Washington State.
With as many as almost 60 million playing DFS games in the United States, if you’ve not already heard of DFS, you soon will.
Fantasy sports betting is radically different to traditional sports betting to win/lose or cover a points-spread. In a DFS fantasy league, you are allotted with a virtual salary cap which is used to ‘buy’ players for your team. Every player in the league (All the major sports leagues plus MMA, PGA Golf and college football and basketball are offered in DFS competitions) is priced determined on their virtual market value (based on career and seasonal performances, current form etc.)
If you wish to draft the best fighter in MMA, for example, you’re going to have to spend a very high percentage of your salary cap on that single star fighter. Usually, winning DFS teams feature a collection of consistent team players rather than expensively priced superstars.
Once you draft and ‘pay’ for your virtual team, watch the week’s games play out. Your team’s real-life counterparts amass stats (Strikeouts, goals, points, completions, hits, TDs etc.) in their real games and accordingly your fantasy league team racks up points online. The person whose team compiles the most points, wins the league (be it a daily, weekly, regular season, stand-alone playoff ‘league’ or competition).
Massive prize money is collated from the ‘prize pool’ accumulated from the millions of player’s minimal entry fees of only a few dollars for each competition.
Winners of the daily, weekly or season-long DFS competitions can potentially win as much as $1 million for each of the DFS competitions.
Poker Laws in Washington
Washington has over 300 poker tables, which is far more than most states and one of the highest table per capita ratios in the entire nation. By way of comparison, Nevada, America’s gambling capital, has 730 poker tables.
However, poker tables don’t sit in mega multi-storey casino resorts in Washington. Sure, Washington has a lot of poker tables, but the state doesn’t have many large cardrooms. Most card rooms in Washington State are 3 to 5 table venues that are located in Tribal Casinos, bars or restaurants. Card clubs usually have live poker rooms and sometimes, even house-banked games like blackjack.
Social poker and other card games are legal under Washington law (Section 9.46.0269 of the Revised State Code), which states that the stipulation for these social or ‘home’ games is that nobody takes a profit from the games, either by raking the pots or selling beverages.
Online Poker Laws in Washington
Online Poker is illegal in Washington and the penalties for partaking in the practice are the harshest anti-gambling laws in the United States (See above sections ‘Is Sports Betting Online Legal in Virginia?’ and ‘Online Casinos in Virginia’ and for further clarification on the severity of the anti-online gambling laws).
Bill HB 1114 was introduced to the Washington State Legislature firstly in 2015 and then again in 2016 in a concerted effort by lawmakers to administer and regulate legal online poker in the State. However, the bill failed to win a lot of traction on either occasion and it appears the topic of legal online poker has been placed on the legislative backburner for the time being at least. We will advise if there are any developments on the horizon.
Washington eSports Betting
Look for eSports to lead the way as one of new generation of ‘family-friendly’ betting options untarnished by the illegal past when Washington State welcomes legal sports betting.
Simply put, eSports are organized tournaments where players – often referred to as ‘athletes’ – face off against each other in multiplayer video games. eSports have been around as long as multiplayer video games have. Now, however, with improvements in technology, online streaming services and being offered by international sportsbooks for betting purposes, have seen them surge in popularity.
A number of games are played competitively on the eSports circuit, however, the most popular are first-person shooters (FPS) like the Call of Duty franchise, real-time strategy games like Starcraft II, sports games like FIFA and multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games such as League of Legends and Dota 2. All draw huge crowds and with each passing tournament, the prizes get richer and viewership increases.
Of course, when money is there to be made, sports-bettors are close behind. A full range of international bookmakers now frame betting markets on the major network of global eSports tournaments.
Look for eSports at your favorite soon-to-be legal Washington sportsbook.
Benefits of Gambling to Washington
- Gambling is viable source of additional income for the State of Washington and provides the State Government with revenue streams to pay for improvements in the state’s health system, University scholarships and better fire protection and policing services for the state’s residents.
- More than 25 000 people are already employed in the Washington State Gambling Industry.
- Gambling expansion in Washington State will assist in much-needed job creation in the Washington economy. Washington has defied nationwide drops in the unemployment rate to increase from 3.9% (April 2016) to rise to 4.8% (March 2018).
- Further expansion in Washington State’s Tribal Casino Gambling could bring jobs, economic growth and prosperity to Native American communities in the Evergreen State.
History of Gambling in Washington
1933; Horse Racing Betting legalized.
1973; Charitable Gambling legalized.
1982; Washington State Lottery begins.
1992; Tribal Casinos open in Washington.
1997; Card rooms legalized in the Evergreen State.
2006; Online gambling made a felony in Washington.
2015-6; Online Poker Legalization Bill HB 1114 fails to pass State Legislature.
2017; Washington’s DFS Legalization Bill SB 5169 fails to pass.