Washington State Gambling Commission raises betting limits in cardrooms
In a significant move last week, the Washington State Gambling Commission voted 3-2 to increase the maximum bet size in cardrooms from $300 to $400. This marks the first increase in betting limits in more than a decade, allowing players to wager larger amounts while playing card games in these establishments.
Back in 1997, Washington made the decision to legalize house-banked cardrooms, creating social environments where players could enjoy card games while also indulging in food and drinks. Over time, the wagering limits in these cardrooms have undergone several adjustments, with the most recent increase raising the limit to $400.
The decision to raise the betting limits was not without controversy. Commissioners Julia Patterson, Bud Sizemore, and Alicia Levy supported the increase, citing the original intent of the Legislature to allow these neighborhood casinos to thrive. Bud Sizemore, a Washington Gambling Regulator Commissioner, expressed confidence in the rationale and legislative authority behind the decision.
On the other hand, Commissioners Sarah Lawson and Anders Ibsen opposed the proposal, arguing that the increase did not align with the primary purpose of cardrooms, which was to primarily focus on selling food and drink while offering social card games as a means to boost sales.
The tribal operators were among the strongest opponents of the increase. They pointed to a provision in the cardroom regulations that emphasized the importance of social card games serving as a “commercial stimulant” to increase food and beverage sales. The federally recognized tribes, whose casinos currently have wager limits of $500 and higher, argued that the new regulation violated this provision.
Maverick Gaming, an operator of gaming facilities and owner of 23 out of the 38 house-banked cardrooms licensed in Washington, had initially petitioned for a higher increase to $500. They sought the hike to cope with rising operating costs and to level the playing field with tribal casinos, which had higher betting limits. Despite their request being reduced to $400, Maverick Gaming welcomed the decision, seeing it as a victory for their efforts to engage with regulators.
The higher betting limits are expected to provide a major boost to cardroom operators, including Maverick Gaming and others. These establishments are likely to benefit from increased revenues as players now have the opportunity to place larger bets while enjoying card games in a social environment.
The new rule will take effect 31 days after being filed with the code reviser. As cardroom operators gear up for the changes, it remains to be seen how this increase in betting limits will impact the dynamics of the gambling landscape in Washington State.