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The Impact – Sports Betting’s Footprint and the Status of Invasive Giant Hornets in WA

Mike McClanahan profile by Mike McClanahan

Mainstream exposure to sports betting has changed significantly since the US Supreme Court struck down a federal law that restricted legal sports betting to Nevada. Many states have since legalized sports betting in one form or another, including Washington. The head of the Washington State Gambling Commission recently joined us to discuss Washington’s approach to sports betting, resources for problem gambling, and emerging areas of concern for regulators.

“What has really started to come to light is player intimidation and concerns, especially at the college level. I have been to conferences where that has been discussed and the NCAA is, it’s my understanding, is really focusing on making, you know, checking the players’ well-being because of the influence and pressure of the players receiving text messages, emails, etc.. ‘Hey, your shot, the shot that you missed at the last few seconds of the game, cost me X number of dollars’. And so just now, the monetary value where when we didn’t have sports wagering so prevalent in the U.S., that pressure wasn’t there as much as it is now. So there is the player intimidation factor that is more more prevalent and is becoming more prevalent and how to deal with that in terms of the mental health of the players, as well as how they navigate that, as well as obviously monitoring what activities they can participate in,” said Tina Griffin, Director of the Washington State Gambling Commission. 

For years now, state entomologists a have been working to prevent the world’s largest species of wasp from becoming a permanent part of the Pacific Northwest ecosystem. In 2019, beekeepers located and destroyed the first breeding population of the Vespa mandarinia ever found in North America. One year later, a nest of Northern giant hornets was found and eradicated in Whatcom County, Washington. Three more were discovered and neutralized in the same county in 2021.

Since no other state had dealt with a breeding population of giant hornets, the Washington State Department of Agriculture had to develop tools and techniques to trap the huge stinging insects and track them back to their nests.

“You have to be careful when you’re working around these,” Sven Spichiger, WSDA Acting Pest Program Manager. “It can sting you multiple times. And when it delivers venom, whether or not the venom is more powerful than that in another insect or not, the volume is huge. You’re looking at a six millimeter long stinger and so that goes through a beekeeping suit, goes through what I’m wearing today. If it wants to sting you, it’s probably going to sting you.”

“We need three consecutive years of negative survey data to consider the Northern Giant Hornet to be eradicated from Washington State. And I’m very happy to say that as of today, and we only have like two days of trapping left for the season, we have no detections again here in 2023,” said Spichiger. “So one more year of closely monitoring. And even though there were no detections last year, there’s still a lot of activity as far as looking for and trying to make sure that the areas where they were known to be or where they could have gone are covered.”

Spichiger also weighed in on recent developments involving another invasive species, the yellow-legged hornet, which has been detected in Georgia and South Carolina. 

“There have been introductions with increasing frequency all over the country and we want to be prepared to deal with not just the Northern Giant Hornet we have here, but certainly the Yellow-Legged Hornet and any others that may show up,” said Spichiger.