Washington’s Gambling Watchdog Allows Cardrooms to Increase Wager Limits

Washington's Gambling Watchdog Allows Cardrooms to Increase Wager LimitsLast Thursday, Washington’s Gambling Commission agreed to allow cardrooms to raise wager limits by $100 up to $400. This is a significant step forward for the industry, especially considering that the wager limits have not been raised for 14 years. Three commissioners voted in favor of the wager limit increase, while two opposed the proposal.

Last summer, Maverick Gaming, which currently owns 23 of all 38 licensed cardrooms in the state, asked the gambling regulator to increase the wager limits to $500 in order to handle the inflation, which severely affected operating costs. Following exhaustive negotiations and public hearings, commissioners agreed to increase wager limits to $400.

However, not everyone was happy with the gambling regulator’s decision. Washington’s federally recognized tribes, whose casinos can offer wager limits of $500 and even higher, opposed the change. They argued that the stake increase violated state law, under which social card games must be used only to increase food and beverage consumption. During the meeting, Luke Esser, representing the Kalispel Tribe, said that if the approval of the wager increase would blur the boundaries between tribal casinos and cardrooms.

Washington legalized cardrooms in 1997. Initially, players could wager no more than $25. After that, the bet limit was increased several times, and in 2009, the gambling regulator allowed cardrooms to raise stake limits to $300. Maverick Gaming’s petition to raise wager limits aimed at making licensed cardrooms more competitive to tribal-owned casinos.

Maverick Also Pushes for Authorization of Sports Betting in Washington-Licensed Cardrooms

Maverick also struggled to convince the regulator to allow cardrooms to offer sports betting. However, the gambling watchdog did not agree with the company’s proposal. As a result, Maverick has decided to challenge the state’s sports betting compacts with the tribes in federal court. At the moment, only tribal casinos are permitted to accept wagers on sports.

Last August, Maverick’s Chief Executive Officer Eric Persson told commissioners that he invested heavily in his cardrooms and wanted to make his business more competitive. He added that Washington-licensed cardrooms had already suffered damage because they could not offer sports betting.

In a letter submitted to the gambling regulator, the Washington Indian Gaming Association highlighted the fact that the Gambling Commission kept the “commercial stimulant” language even though it amended the Gambling Act several times. At the hearing, several cardroom employees expressed doubts that many players would go for the maximum wager limit. Some cardroom operators also noted that most of their revenue came from food and drink sales.

Commissioner Julia Patterson, who approved the change, said that making a decision was hard because the arguments of both sides were reasonable. Commissioners Bud Sizemore and Alicia Levy also supported Maverick’s petition. Commissioners Sarah Lawson and Anders Ibsen opposed the petition, explaining that the stake increase conflicted with lawmakers’ original idea. The change will become effective 31 days after being filed with the Code Reviser.