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Commentary: One year later, little progress on sports betting in the state of Washington is disappointing

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One year ago this week, a U.S. Supreme Court decision essentially gave individual states the power to legalize sports gambling within their borders.

And this past week, Iowa became the 11th state to legalize it, with as many as five more states in line to legalize sports betting by the end of this year, according to business reporter Darren Rovell. And according to the American Gaming Association, states have generated more than $55 million in new state and local tax revenue in the past year alone.

(Picture of a snail) And here’s a look at how quickly the state of Washington is getting there.

Now, I know many of us were surprised to hear that there was actually a bill introduced to the state’s House of Representatives in February: One that would legalize sports gambling within tribal gaming facilities.

But that bill – House Bill 1975 – never made it out of committee. It’s just a bill.

Now, I know some viewers are already formulating that go-to email whenever anything sports related involving the government comes up: “We’ve got so much more to worry about – why should this be a priority?” And I get it – funding education or creating affordable housing or improving transportation are all much more important.

But sometimes it’s worth trying to see the forest through the trees – that the revenue from gaming can go toward some of these critical needs.

In many states, the revenues go into a general fund that is then distributed by the legislature. In Mississippi, it goes to the Department of Transportation to repair roads and sewer systems. In Rhode Island, it’s also used for transportation, but also education.

I know I covered this last year, but it’s worth noting again that Americans illegally wager about $150 billion per year on sports betting, according to the American Gaming Association. It’s no surprise that 11 states have jumped on this opportunity so far. And while it’s encouraging that eight lawmakers in this state actually sponsored a bill that moves us in that direction, the fact that it failed to get enough support is just as discouraging.

After all, this bill in particular, and likely any future bill that gains support would have to then be negotiated between the tribal communities and our governor – a process that could take more than a year!

In the last year, we’ve seen Major League Baseball, the NBA, the NHL and NFL all announce lucrative contracts with casinos like Caesars or MGM. Individual teams are getting in on the action as well. It’s become mainstream. Everyone is doing it. The future is now.

It’s a shame that the process can’t move faster or garner more support in this state. On this issue in particular, it feels like everyone around us is moving to that digital world, while we’re perfectly content running on analog.

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