The purpose of this page is to provide local governments with information about gambling and gambling regulation in Washington State. Gambling, like liquor sales and use, is an activity that is generally controlled by state law, and cities and counties are quite limited in their ability to regulate it locally. However, they are authorized to: (1) tax certain gambling activities; (2) enact as local ordinances any of the state gambling statutes the violation of which constitutes a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor; and/or (3) prohibit any or all gambling activities for which licenses are required. A city or county's authority to regulate and tax gambling activities is discussed in Regulation and Taxation of Gambling.
In deciding how to address whether to prohibit some or all gambling activities allowed by state law, cities and counties are confronted with much conflicting information on the effects of gambling on local communities. While some studies have been made or are in progress concerning the effects of gambling on local communities, there is no definitive word on these impacts. The results and predictions of existing studies are often dependent on the agenda of the sponsoring organization. MRSC has collected some information on this issue and hopes to collect more.
We would appreciate your comments, leads to additional useful information, and information about your jurisdiction's activities. Send your comments and information additions to Bob Meinig or call 206-625-1300.
An overview of the authority of a city or county to regulate and tax gambling activities.
- Gambling with Our Future? The Costs and Benefits of Legalized Gambling, by Patrick Basham and Karen White, The Fraser Institute, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, 2002
- Measuring the Impact of Gambling: An Economist's View, by Anne Hawke, Hawke Institute Working Paper Series No. 4, University of South Australia, 2000
- Prevalence of Gambling in Washington State, 2003 Washington State Needs Assessment Survey Ch. 6, Washington State Department of Social and Health Services
Cities and counties have the authority to tax gambling activities occuring within their jurisdictions. An overview of the limitations on their authority to tax is set out below.
These cases affirm the authority of cities and counties to ban existing gambling activities. The Edmonds case also invalidates the authority of a city to allow existing social card rooms to continue in operation but ban future card rooms from opening. The ban must apply equally to existing and future gambling acitivities.
- Edmonds Shopping Center v. Edmonds, 117 Wn. App. 344 (2003) - City ban of existing social card rooms upheld
The state court of appeals held that a city may prohibit card rooms, including existing card rooms, but is preempted by state law from requiring or allowing a phase-out period of operation.
- Paradise Village Bowl v. Pierce County, 124 Wn. App. 759 (2004) - County ban on existing social card rooms upheld
In a case similar to the Edmonds Shopping Center case, above, the state court of appeals upheld the county's ban on for-profit social card games, rejecting a challenge by a business that included such card games and that alleged that the ban was a takings and violated substantive due process and equal protection.
An overview of gambling regulations by other states in the Western Region of the United States.
Private and Nonprofit Agencies
A selection of websites with gambling-related information from organizations that both support and oppose legalized gambling.