Maverick Gaming CEO Eric Persson said the Las Vegas company’s efforts to bring sports betting to the state of Washington this year may not be successful. But he’s not overly worried.
The state has begun a 60-day legislative session and there are competing sports wagering bills in the hopper.
Persson, on a media conference call Friday, said even if the bills fail, the process will at least help educate the public on sports betting and allow privately held Maverick to forge relationships with tribal casino operators and the state’s racetrack industry. If sports betting doesn’t happen this year, Persson won’t give up.
“I’m not sure any of the bills will pass,” said Persson, whose company owns 19 licensed card room casinos in the state. “I believe we need to pass thoughtful legislation and the dialogue could bring us and the Native American casinos together.”
Persson said Maverick backs a proposal – introduced in both the house and the senate – that legalizes land-based and mobile sports betting at Indian casinos, card rooms and racetracks. The measure carries a 10% tax on revenues from all wagers and restricts betting on games involving Washington colleges and universities.
He said changes could be made in a few years to allow bets on the state’s schools, similar to how Nevada gaming regulators ended a ban on wagering on UNLV and University of Nevada, Reno games.
Taxes collected from sports bets made in licensed card rooms, racetracks, and from mobile wagers made away from Tribal land would be collected and remitted to the state. Tax collected in Tribal casino sportsbooks and mobile wagers placed on Tribal land would be collected and remitted to the Tribes.
Persson said on the conference call his conservative estimate is that sports betting would generate $50 million annually in tax revenue to the state.
In a statement, Maverick said the proposed legislation was modelled after the legal system in New Jersey and would create a strict framework of regulations for a legal sports betting marketplace.
“We believe this is an inclusive and well thought out bill,” Persson said. “It’s a service we would like to provide, it will generate tax dollars and will help reduce or eliminate the illegal market.”
The challenge is time. Washington’s legislature is meeting for just 60 days and bills would need to get out of committee within the next three weeks. Gaming expansion in Washington requires a two-thirds majority vote.
Washington State representative Brandon Vick, who is sponsoring the bill backed by Maverick, told Sports Handle the language was starting point for negotiations.
“I want the full discussion to take place,” Vick said. “And for political reasons, if we have to narrow down, that’s great. That’s how politics works, right?”
Maverick Gaming, which expanded largely in the past year in Washington – many of which are in the Seattle area – and employs 2,200 in the state. Persson said the company expects to spend $500 million to expand the renovate the businesses and having retail sportsbooks in the locations is part of the effort.
In December, the company acquired three casinos in Colorado is applying for a sports betting license covering the properties near Denver. Colorado is expected to launch legal sports betting by May.
Persson said Maverick is learning from the Colorado experience, some of which could be translated to Washington.
“I look forward to working with Washington’s elected leaders, Tribal government leaders, community stakeholders, and all interested parties regarding the merits of this proposed legislation,” Persson said.
Fourteen states now offer sports betting following the Supreme Court’s decision to toss out the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in May 2018. Another six states and Washington D.C. could launch activities this year. In the Northwest, Oregon has sports betting and Montana has legalized the activity and is yet to launch.
Washington lawmakers introduced several sports betting bills in 2019, but none made it out of committee.
Maverick also owns four casinos in rural Nevada and announced Monday it was acquiring Eldorado Shreveport in Louisiana from Eldorado Resorts for $230 million.
Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.