Is Sports Betting Legal in Washington?

Washington’s sports scene is a very intimate one. The state isn’t overloaded with professional and collegiate teams of significance, but it’s not completely bereft of major athletic spectacles either. From the Seattle Mariners, to the Seattle Sounders FC, to the Seattle Seahawks, Washington enjoys a balanced docket of pro squads that keep the market relevant and active without oversaturating it.

Washington Sports Betting Law

It’s too bad Washington’s sports betting laws don’t imitate their athletic landscape. Sportsbooks are illegal in Washington, as are many other forms of gambling. Their laws on this front can only be described as weird, because they’ve ostensibly waged war against online gambling while diving head first into the casino market.

Dozens of Tribal Casinos

Twenty-three federally recognized tribes operate 32 casinos speckled throughout the state. That’s a large number given Washington’s population; they rank 13th out of 50 states, as of the 2016 consensus. But they have the market to float that kind of volume. 

Some of the casinos are clustered up, and they give off a vacation-type feel. You can spend a weekend there, vacillating between two to three gambling halls that are within earshot of each other, all the while enjoying most of the frills associated with Las Vegas casino floors. The presentation isn’t as lavish or over the top, but it’s relatively impressive compared to facilities you’ll see by the Mississippi or in upstate New York.

By allowing so many casinos to get up and running, Washington has cornered the market on Northwest gambling destinations. It’s a pretty fantastic approach when you think about it. Nevada is just far enough away that they’re not competing with them, and that’s allowed them to reel in a healthy out of state demographic.

Daily Fantasy Sports: Thumbs Down

Washington is one of the few states that has outlawed daily fantasy sports free and clear. Legislation isn’t impending. Officials aren’t undecided. This has been hammered out, and daily fantasy sports have been deemed games of chance.

Residents are still able to use sites like Draft Kings and FanDuel, but warnings should pop up whenever they register, alerting them to the fact that they’ll only be able to participate in freebie competitions that don’t have the potential to line their pockets.

A Vendetta Against Online Gambling

Not many states specifically vilify the existence of online sportsbooks and casinos. Washington is among the few that do. They have done everything within in the law to deter residents from gambling on websites, even when they’re based internationally.

Of course, there’s only so much they can actually do. They cannot regulate the overseas sportsbooks and casino, and because they haven’t passed a bill that allows them to overturn any federal policies, the state branch ultimately cedes control to them on this front. 

That doesn’t make online gambling legal. Again, it’s not. But despite Washington’s classification, it cannot be considered totally illegal, either.

The Last Hope for Sportsbetting?

Washington may have no choice other than to look into legalizing sports betting at some point. If the NCAA, NBA or NFL ends up hosting an annual event in Las Vegas or, in the case of the NBA and NFL, puts a team in Nevada, the casino industry will become so much more competitive by default.

And because Washington isn’t terribly far from Nevada, it’s profit margin would stand to suffer. So while we may be a few years away from anything like this becoming a reality, Washington will have to consider embracing sports gambling should these big-time leagues deepen their ties to Nevada.


Washington Gambling Law Overview

Please see below for a more specific breakdown of what betting types are and aren’t allowed in Washington at this time.

  • Casino Gambling: Legal
  • Tribal Gambling: Legal
  • Poker: Legal
  • Horse-Race Betting: Legal
  • Dog-Race Betting: Not legal
  • Lottery: Legal
  • Daily Fantasy Betting: Not legal
  • Social Gambling: Legal
  • Charitable Gambling: Legal
  • Online Gambling: Not legal (but there are limits to this stance)

Washington Sports Teams

Due to the popularity of the Portland Trail Blazers in Washington, we will be including them as one of the three most relevant teams in the state, even though they actually hail from Oregon.

Portland Trail Blazers (NBA)

Although the Blazers only have one championship to their resume—which they won the first time they ever entered the playoffs, in 1977—they have clinched 33 postseason bids through 47 years of existence. Not every franchise can boast that kind of relevance ratio.

The Blazers won’t always rank among the most elite teams in the NBA, but they’re never going to be rebuilding for long. Fans can appreciate that.

Then again, the Blazers don’t really have a choice. As current general manager Neil Olshey has alluded to on numerous occasions, smaller markets cannot prop up bottoming out teams for very long. Portland might be an exception, if only because the fanbase is so loyal after all these years, but the Blazers haven’t tested that resolve in quite some time.

Nor do they plan to in the imminent future. They invested big bucks in stars Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, and the hope is that those two can ferry the franchise closer to the top of the Western Conference as they continue to improve and enter the most productive parts of their primes.

Seattle Seahawks (NFL)

The Seattle Seahawks have morphed into one of the NFL’s premier powerhouses under head coach Pete Carroll. Since he took the reins in 2010, after leaving the USC program, they have finished under .500 just twice, and those were his first two years at the helm.

They’ve won no fewer than 10 games since 2012, and no fewer than seven during his tenure, which has no spanned two Super Bowl appearances and the franchise’s only championship. 

Defense buoys the Seahawks’ appeal. Known as the “Legion of Boom,” they rely on tenacious tacklers, speedy stoppers in the secondary and, believe it or not, the deafening roars from the home crowd, who have been dubbed time and again the most valuable 13th man in all of football.

Seattle Mariners (MLB)

Give it up to the city of Seattle, and all of Washington, for continuing to support the Seattle Mariners. Seriously. They deserve props.

The Mariners have been that disappointing.

Through 41 seasons, they’ve only made four playoff appears. Four. That’s like one every 10 years. And really, it’s more than that. All four of the Mariners’ postseason stays unfolded within seven years, between 1995 and 2001. So it’s going on 16 years since they last sniffed the postseason.

For those chasing after silver linings, the 2017 Mariners might give you one: They’re currently on pace to finish above .500 for the second consecutive season, a small-time feat they haven’t accomplished since their four-year winning-record run between 2000 and 2003. There’s a good-to-great chance this year’s victory total won’t be enough to end their postseason drought, but hey, a winning record is better than a 70-92 season…right? 

Washington Biggest Sporting Event of the Year

Now, this isn’t actually an event, but a fourth team. The Seattle Sounders FC are an MLS team that places among the most popular American soccer franchises.

They were founded in 2007 and recognize four core owners, including the Blazers’ Paul Allen. They play at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Washington, which has a listed capacity of 41,000 fans, but also has the ability to expand for 69,000 people.

Soccer isn’t as popular in the U.S. as it is around the rest of the world, but it’s the most popular sport on a global scale. And while the Sounders haven’t exactly been dominant since entering the fray, they’ve built a loyal following that turns each of their home games into a lively affair.

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