History of Gambling in Washington – Part One

Casinos and gambling have each had backgrounds that are full of ups and downs. The history of gambling in Washington State has come a long way, to today, where the conversation is becoming more and more open to legalizing online poker. But let’s take a look back at where we’ve been…

Gambling has been a national and international pastime for centuries, but its regulation became a focal point in Washington in 1889, when the state’s Constitution was ratified to make all forms of gambling illegal. Less than 10 years later, in 1898, the Supreme Court ruled that this prohibition also applied to charitable events.

Due to rampant bookmaking in 1909, horse racing was also prohibited, but betting on horseracing (Pari Mutuel betting) was later legalized, in 1933.

Just five years later, in 1937, slot machines were permitted for private and not-for-profit clubs. However, the use of slot machines for charitable purposes was deemed unconstitutional by Washington’s Supreme Court in 1952.

In a giant sting operation in 1971, more than 50 public officials and police officers were arrested and eventually indicted for accepting gambling payoffs. Meanwhile, Bingo and raffles were legalized. The following year, the state Constitution was amended to allow for limited lotteries. And in 1973, the Washington Gambling Commission was established, designed for the oversight of legislature-authorized social gaming activities, charity fundraisers at casinos, bingo, raffles, and pull tables.

Next month, we will continue with a second part of the history of gambling in Washington.

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