Taylor, Ross introduce Gaming Equity and Fairness Act
State Reps. David Taylor and Charles Ross have co-sponsored legislation they say would help level out the playing field in Washington's gaming industry between tribal casinos and privately owned card rooms. House Bill 2044, which has bi-partisan support, would allow about 65 current non-tribal, house-banked card rooms to upgrade from pull tabs to electronic scratch ticket machines. Currently, only tribal casinos can operate the machines, also known as video lottery terminals.
“The monopoly that tribes have on this market isn't fair or equitable. Allowing existing non-tribal card rooms to upgrade their gaming facilities will allow them to adequately compete with tribal gaming activities,” said Ross, R-Naches. “This would only apply to card rooms that have proven they can abide by regulations and provide a fair game.”
Only house-banked card rooms with at least five card games or five years of experience would be able to upgrade their gaming under the measure. No more than 200 machines would be allowed per location, or no more than 7,875 machines statewide.
“Tribal casinos were first built in rural areas, but now they are expanding to urban areas – providing unfair competition to private businesses,” said Taylor, R-Moxee. “We have to ask ourselves – do we want more mega-casinos or do we want to allow established and reputable house-banked card rooms to compete for the same market share?”
The lawmakers said tribes have had an unfair edge over non-tribal card rooms for years. See the charts below (click on the images to see larger versions).
Amid a more than $5 billion spending gap for the 2011-13 state budget, the lawmakers said this measure could provide about $290 million in revenue to the state, without any increase in taxes. Under the bill, revenue from new non-tribal gaming activities would be required to be distributed as follows:
- 50 percent to fund K-12 education;
- 30 percent to fund services for the most vulnerable; and
- 20 percent to fund public safety.
Any transfers from the dedicated accounts would require a 60 percent vote of the Legislature. Local governments would also receive a portion of the money paid to fund core services.
The bill has not yet been assigned to a committee for consideration.
Media contact: Sarah Lamb, Public Information Officer, (360) 786-7720
###Washington State House Republican Communications