Connect with us

     

Translate the Site

You are here

Home » News » COVID-19 Update

COVID-19 Update

Last Updated: 8/3/2020

Feedback Requested

We realize that our industry is heavily impacted by COVID-19. As we look towards recovery, we welcome feedback from our industry partners.

Office Information

Our Lacey and Spokane offices are closed to the public until further notice. This includes the suspension of fingerprinting services. Beginning in August, Washington State Patrol (WSP) will reopen for fingerprinting services.  Call 360-534-2000, option #2, to make an appointment.

Licensing staff members are available to assist licensees and the public by phone and email, during normal business hours. To expedite processing, we encourage all new applicants and licensees to use our online services in MyAccount. Please email our Licensing Unit at licensing@wsgc.wa.gov if you have questions or need to schedule a phone appointment.

Safe Start Washington (Re-opening Info)

Through the Washington "Safe Start" plan, businesses and activities will re-open in phases, with adequate safety and health standards in place.

Counties can apply to move to the next phase of “Safe Start”. County applications will be approved or denied by the secretary of the Department of Health.

General Re-opening Questions:

Are employees and customers allowed or required to wear protective gear, such as face masks and gloves, where gambling is permitted?

Each industry has unique requirements under Safe Start Washington, as well as additional local jurisdiction requirements. Please refer to COVID-19 Reopening Guidance for Businesses and Workers:

https://www.governor.wa.gov/issues/issues/covid-19-resources/covid-19-reopening-guidance-businesses-and-workers

 

Which state agency is responsible for safety and health requirements that are required, or may be required, under the Safe Start Washington phases of reopening?

Washington State Department of Labor and Industries and the Department of Health.

Nonprofit Gambling Activities

Can nonprofit organizations resume the sale of pull tabs, raffle tickets, and other gambling activities when they are allowed to reopen?

Licensees that are authorized to reopen under the Washington State “Safe Start” reopening plan may resume gambling activities. We recommend you consult legal counsel for further direction.

 

When can nonprofit organizations resume gambling operations?

Nonprofit organizations can resume gambling operations when their organization is authorized to reopen under the Washington State “Safe Start” reopening plan. We recommend you consult legal counsel for further direction.

Pull-tabs

When can I start selling pull tabs?

Licensees that are authorized to reopen under the Washington State “Safe Start” reopening plan may resume the sale of punchboards and pull tabs. We recommend you consult legal counsel for further direction.

https://www.governor.wa.gov/issues/issues/covid-19-resources/covid-19-reopening-guidance-businesses-and-worker

Bingo

Licensees that are authorized to reopen under the Washington State “Safe Start” reopening plan may resume bingo operations. We recommend you consult legal counsel for further direction.

Cardrooms

What phase are card rooms allowed to re-open under the Safe Start Washington plan for reopening businesses?

Card rooms are not permitted to open indoor operations until Phase 4.

Do I need WSGC approval to reopen a house-banked card room?

Yes. WAC 230-15-545, requires that if a house-banked card game licensee interrupts card game operations for more than seven days, the licensee must receive written approval before resuming operations. The approval process will require an on-site inspection by a WSGC Agent.

We urge you to notify us at least five business days in advance of your planned reopening, or as soon as possible to make arrangements for the on-site inspection. Contact your agent to get a copy of what the inspection will entail.

 

Will there be social distancing restrictions that limit the number of players on each table game, or require customers and/or employees (including dealers) to wear face masks and other protective gear?

We are awaiting guidance from the Governor to identify the phase that will likely allow card rooms to reopen and the guidelines a business must follow to re-open. We recommend you consult legal counsel for further direction.

 

Will a house-banked card room be allowed to reduce the number of count team members?

Licensees must comply with WAC 230-15-615.

 

Since we have been closed and are low on cash, can we re-open with a reduced minimum cash on hand, and then increase it once we have generated more revenue?

No. You must meet minimum cash on hand requirements. WAC 230-15-050.

 

Will card rooms be allowed to place additional card game tables on the gaming floor if the number of players per table is reduced due to social distancing restrictions?

No. RCW 9.46.0282 limits the number of tables to 15 per establishment.

 

WAC 230-03-270 allows for a new card room employee applicant to work after a ten day waiting period and before receiving a license. Under specific circumstances, and upon paying the waiver fee, a CRE may work before the 10 day waiting period. Will the fee be waived?

No. Base license fees, new application fees, and all other license fees are due and payable immediately for any licensee not licensed as of February 29, 2020.

Outdoor Card Rooms

On July 23, 2020, the Governor announced a change to the Safe Start Plan. Effective July 30 2020, indoor card rooms are prohibited until Phase 4. The Governor’s Card Room Requirements were updated to allow card rooms activities outdoors only in a temporary structure. The outdoor structure (temporary or permanent) should have no more than two walls to provide ventilation. The limitation on walls applies to both rigid and flexible walls. Guests may still enter the indoor facility to access the restaurant, cage, automated teller machine, and restrooms.

Any outside operations must adhere to all applicable gambling laws, rules, and any local public health and/or gambling ordinances.

Below is some guidance for licensees seeking to operate outdoor card rooms:

Food and Beverage Service

You must always offer food and/or beverage service for on-premises consumption gambling activities are operated, RCW 9.46.0325.

On-Site Inspection Checklists

Before operating an outdoor cardroom in a temporary outdoor structure, licensees must have an on-site inspection. Please review the checklist to ensure a smooth and speedy transition prior to setting up your temporary structure.

Internal Control Changes for Operating in a Temporary Structure

House-banked card rooms can develop temporary Internal Controls (ICs) that address the changes for operating your card room(s) outside. You will need to get these temporary ICs approved before you can begin operations in your temporary structure. Submission of new, temporary ICs prior to your on-site inspection of the temporary structure is preferable.

Permits

You need to send us an email stating you have received all your permits from your local jurisdiction before we issue approval for you to operate the cardroom in your temporary structure.

Permanent Progressive Jackpot Removal (WAC 230-15-710)

Due to the Governor’s July 23 announcement that all house-banked card rooms must close all indoor card rooms by July 30, the Gambling Commission recognizes that is difficult, if not impossible, for licensees to follow the ten-day Progressive Jackpot Removal notice and distribution plan requirements in WAC 230-15-710. Since the Governor provided licensees seven days to react, the Gambling Commission will allow for licensees to do this posting for seven days during business operations unless the licensee plans to permanently close the business.

Removing Progressive Jackpot Seed Money (WAC 230-15-695)

Licensees cannot reduce the amount of the progressive jackpot prize accrued or displayed by the seed money except as outlined in WAC 230-15-695. Seed money can be recovered from the reserve or secondary jackpot if properly documented in the records, subsection 5.

Temporary Removal of Progressive Jackpots (WAC 230-15-705)

Please submit your written request to temporarily remove a progressive jackpot game from play as outlined in the rule. Your request may be approved for removal through August 31, 2020. This will allow us time to work with all HBCR licensees on how to handle progressive jackpot prizes do to the extended closures of some cardrooms.

High Roller Tents

We must complete an on-site inspection before opening a temporary, high-roller card room structure. We will use the same checklist(hyperlink) to conduct our inspection. Please send your agent an email indicating your local jurisdiction’s permit approval of this additional temporary structure when you are ready for an on-site inspection.

COVID-19 Relief Efforts

The Washington State Gambling Commission (WSGC) recognizes the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly impacted our stakeholders.

Letter to the Washington State Congressional Delegation

We are working with tribes to identify areas where we can provide relief when it comes to gaming compact obligations. The areas we’re addressing include deadlines for payments and employee certifications.

On April 24, 2020, the Small Business Administration (SBA) released revised regulatory guidelines that permit size-eligible small gaming entities to participate in the Paycheck Protection Program. The American Gaming Association issued a press release with analysis of the revised guidelines. 

In an effort to help our commercial and nonprofit licensees recover from this crisis, we are providing the following relief: 

License Renewals

If your license expired while gambling facilities were closed, the renewal period will be extended to 30 days after public venues are allowed to re-open to the public for entertainment, social or recreational purposes and onsite consumption of food and/or beverages. You can renew online through MyAccount. Your annual expiration date will not change. For example, if your license expired on March 31, 2020, your new license will expire on March 31, 2021. We continue to consider the feasibility of extending other license expiration dates and expedited application processes. 

New License Applications and License Fees

We will continue to accept and process license applications. Fingerprinting services have been suspended but you can still submit applications and applications will still be processed. Base license fees, new application fees, and all other license fees are due and payable immediately for any licensee not licensed as of February 29, 2020.

License Fees

All license fees and costs are deferred for current licensees until 30 days after public venues can re-open to the public for entertainment, social or recreational purposes and onsite consumption of food and/or beverages. This includes, but is not limited to, all fees and costs outlined in Washington Administrative Code (WAC) Chapter 230-05, other than quarterly license fees, which are addressed below.

Quarterly License Fees and Quarterly License Reports

Your first quarter 2020 report and fees must be received by the 45th day after public venues are allowed to re-open to the public for entertainment, social or recreational purposes and onsite consumption of food and/or beverages. We will waive all late filing fees for the first quarter 2020 if you submit your report and pay your fees by this date.

Payment Plan

If your quarterly license fees for the first quarter 2020 are more than $500, you can pay the amount due in two payments. To do so, by the 45th day public venues can re-open to the public for entertainment, social or recreational purposes and onsite consumption of food and/or beverages, you must:

The second ½ of your quarterly license fees are due by the 60th day public venues can re-open to the public for entertainment, social or recreational purposes and onsite consumption of food and/or beverages. Failure to pay your fees and submit your report to us as outlined above could result in administrative action against your license.

Reporting Requirements

All reporting requirements for items listed below are suspended until 30 days after public venues can re-open to the public for entertainment, social or recreational purposes and onsite consumption of food and/or beverages.

  • 230-06-080 Report changes to application information and submit updated documents and information.

  • 230-06-081 Submitting gambling service supplier contracts for review.

  • 230-06-085 Report criminal actions filed.

  • 230-06-090 Report administrative and criminal actions filed.

  • 230-06-095 Change of name, trade name, or corporate name.

  • 230-06-105 Report change of management.

  • 230-06-106 Report change of management.

  • 230-06-107 Ownership changes – Allowed.

Financial Statement Filing Extensions

House-banked card room and nonprofit licensees required to file financial statements and annual reports during the state of emergency (February 29, 2020 through the end of the state of emergency, which has yet to be determined) under the following WACs are automatically extended an additional 60 days.

  • 230-07-145 Reporting annual progress.

  • 230-07-150 Financial statements required for Group III, IV, and V.

  • 210-11-103 Independent audit required for enhanced raffles.

  • 230-15-740 Preparing required financial statements.

Nonprofit Cash Flow Waivers

We will allow nonprofit licensees to have a negative cash flow, as outlined in WAC 230-10-375, for the fiscal year that includes the state of emergency (February 29, 2020 through the end of the state of emergency, which has yet to be determined.) 

Raffles, Fundraising Events and Recreational Gaming Activities

Based upon the current COVID-19 environment, we understand that raffles, fundraising events and recreational gaming activities will need to be postponed. As a result, licensees may submit a written request to change the date of an event, without penalty or fees during this time. For raffle drawing date changes, send your request to Jim Nicks at jim.nicks@wsgc.wa.gov. For fundraising events and recreational gaming activities, send your requests to licensing@wsgc.wa.gov.  

Still have questions? Give us a call at 360-486-3606 and leave a message, or send us an email at askus@wsgc.wa.gov.

Electronic Gambling Lab

The WSGC recognizes manufacturer concerns regarding the inability to submit new products or system modifications to our Electronic Gambling Lab. Unfortunately, if it is not a compliance concern or a WSGC mission-critical activity, we cannot accept the submission(s) at this time. Currently, the EGL is still only able to accept DOR submissions or items deemed an “Emergency Fix” by the independent test labs. Per the governor’s mandate, non-essential staff are not allowed entry into the building. We will revisit the restrictions every 30 days, at a minimum. Additionally, the Stay-at-Home guidelines may change depending on the direction of the governor. Thank you for your patience as we navigate through these unprecedented times.

Gambling Facility Closures

Effectively, nearly all gambling activities in Washington were suspended due to Governor Inslee's stay-at-home order. While not ordered to close, all Class III tribal casinos in Washington voluntarily closed their doors initially. Many are now reopening.

Gov. Inlee's 3/27 letter to tribal leaders

Public Disclosure Requests

Our staff members continue to process public disclosure requests, but requestors may experience delays while COVID-19 restrictions are in place. If you are requesting paper records or records that require special systems or equipment to locate or compile, there will be a significant delay in producing the records.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)

General Licensee Questions

Do I have to renew my license while the ban is in place or can I wait until the ban is over?

If your license expired while gambling facilities were closed, the renewal period will be extended to 30 days after public venues are allowed to re-open to the public for entertainment, social or recreational purposes and onsite consumption of food and/or beverages. You can renew online through MyAccount. Your annual expiration date will not change. For example, if your license expired on March 31, 2020, your new license will expire on March 31, 2021. We continue to consider the feasibility of extending other license expiration dates and expedited application processes.

 

Do the Non-profit clubs have to close?

Yes. WA State Governor Proclamation 20-13 prohibits people from gathering in a “public venue” which includes, but is not limited to, social clubs, private clubs, tennis clubs, golf clubs, faith-based organizations/facilities, and other similar venues.

 

Will WSGC Agents meet with licensees if they request?

Agents will make every effort to accommodate licensees by phone and email. An Agents supervisor may authorize personal contact if it is deemed essential to our operations.

 

Should licensees deposit all their money?

We recommend that licensees secure money prior to closure.

 

QLR’s and QLF’s are coming due what do licensees do? Will we extend the due date?

Your first quarter 2020 report and fees must be received by the 45th day after public venues are allowed to re-open to the public for entertainment, social or recreational purposes and onsite consumption of food and/or beverages. We will waive all late filing fees for the first quarter 2020 if you submit your report and pay your fees by this date.

If your quarterly license fees for the first quarter 2020 are more than $500, you can pay the amount due in two payments. To do so, by the 45th day public venues can re-open to the public for entertainment, social or recreational purposes and onsite consumption of food and/or beverages, you must:

 

Can I get a refund of my license fees if I’m forced out of business due to the ban?

No. Generally speaking our new fee restructure removes the refund option. Licensees no longer pay for a full license year in advance but now pay by the quarter only after operating. Current assessment is for gambling activity that has already occurred.

Raffles, Pull-tabs, Bingo

Will there be an extension on when bank deposits need to be made?

Our recommendation would be to make deposits upon closing and then start deposits upon re-opening. If you are not operating then deposit requirements are not applicable. However if licensees cannot make deposits upon closing then we will not count the days of closure due to the Governors proclamation.

 

Raffles

How should operators proceed if raffle drawings that were to take place must be postponed?

Operators may submit a written request to change the date of an event, without penalty or fees during this time. For raffle drawing date changes, send your request to Jim Nicks at jim.nicks@wsgc.wa.gov

 

Can raffle operators become creative in how they sell tickets, including internet sales in some form?

No. Raffles must be operated within existing state laws and rules.

 

Pull Tabs

Depending on the length of closure, are pull tab records still required to be completed within 30 days following the end of the month? WAC 230-14-285

Yes. Pull tab records must be completed as required by WAC 230-14-285.

 

How should operators temporarily close their pull tab operations, and will we allow them to put back into play the existing pull tab games so long as they can secure them from the public and potentially employees?

Pull tab operators should temporarily remove the pull tab games from play and secure them from the public/employees. Licensees can put the games back in play when the business reopens.

 

Seal card winners have 14 days to redeem their prize; does this time pause during closures?

Yes. If the business is no longer open, the players cannot redeem the prizes. The 14- day requirement to redeem the prize should begin once the business reopens.

 

Does the closure period count for retention time of pull tabs removed from play?

Yes.  For games that have been permanently removed from play, the retention time starts following the last day of the month the game is removed from play (WAC 230-14-265).  The retention time does not begin for pull tab games that are temporarily or permanently held. 

 

Will a licensee be able to extend the time for current pull tab games on hold past the WAC 14 days?

Yes. The 14-day requirement will not apply during the required business closure. Once the licensee reopens, they should start counting off any remaining days from where they left off when the business closed. For example, if a player has reserved a game for 4 days before the business closes, the game can be held for 10 days once the business reopens.

 

How should we ensure nonprofit social clubs secure their in play and new pull tab games as well as cash banks, etc.?

Nonprofit organizations have an obligation to protect their assets WAC 230-07-060. If the nonprofit organization is closed, they should temporarily remove their pull tab games from play and ensure they are secure. New pull tab games and cash banks should be secured as they normally would be to ensure the games/funds are protected.

 

If a pull tab carry-over jackpot game does not have a tab available to win the jackpot does the game need to be replaced as soon as the business reopens. WAC 230-14-235 requires replacement within seven business days.

We will not count the days you are closed towards the seven business days.

 

If a business is open for take-out food, can they sell pull tabs while the food order is processed.

No. WA State Governor Proclamation 20-13 prohibits people from gathering in any public venue in which people congregate for purposes of public entertainment, social and recreation. We believe the selling and playing of pull tabs fall within this category.

 

Bingo

Does the ban apply to Bingo licensees?

Yes. WA State Governor Proclamation 20-13 prohibits people from gathering in any public venue in which people congregate for purposes of public entertainment, social and recreation. We believe bingo operations fall within this category.

Amusement Games

Does the ban apply to Amusement Centers?

Yes. WA State Governor Proclamation 20-13 prohibits people from gathering in any public venue in which people congregate for purposes of public entertainment, social and recreation. We believe amusement centers fall within this category.

Card Rooms and House-Banked Card Rooms (HBCR)

Can House-Banked Card Room gaming continue to operate if their restaurant is limited to take out only and not dine in?

No. WA State Governor Proclamation 20-13 prohibits House Banked Card Rooms from operating

 

How should card rooms secure themselves for extended closures? Secure chips and cash in safes? Should they deposit all cash banks into their bank for safekeeping so no cash is left on premise and subject to burglary?

This is a question for each card room operator to answer. However, it is recommended that each card room secure chips and cash to limit their risk of burglary during the business closure.

 

What if a patron has chips and wishes to cash them in during the time-period of the cardroom closure?

Card Rooms are required to close. Therefore, they cannot cash out chips from patrons.

 

Do I need to keep surveillance staffed while closed?

No. The WAC rules do not require a staffed surveillance room when the licensee is closed for business. It is up to each licensee whether they have surveillance staff working during the closure. However, surveillance must be recording during the closure if drop boxes or chip trays are stored on the gambling tables (WAC 230-15-265).

 

Should chips be credited from the table to the cage for more security.

That is one option. If you do remove chips from the chip racks on the table, they must be credited through the proper procedures. You may also remove the entire locked chip rack with a proper Table Inventory Slip and secure them in the cage or soft count room. Again, it is your responsibility to protect your assets.

 

Can HBCR’s get an extension on the reporting requirements for illegal activity just prior to the ban?

No. Activity can be reported 24 hours a day via email or voice mail. There is no reason to delay reporting suspected illegal activity. If the licensee is closed for business, they are not required to report illegal activity they are not aware of. If they become aware of illegal activity, they must report as required.

 

Do House Banked Card Rooms have to do a final count?

Yes, a final count must be completed prior to the closure of the business.