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Gambling in Washington State


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.

General Information

An overview of the authority of a city or county to regulate and tax gambling activities.

Gambling Studies


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.

Legal References

Local Ordinances

State Statutes

Administrative Regulations

Court Cases

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.

Additional References

An overview of gambling regulations by other states in the Western Region of the United States.

Government Agencies

Private and Nonprofit Agencies

A selection of websites with gambling-related information from organizations that both support and oppose legalized gambling.

Last Modified: May 12, 2016