OLYMPIA, Wash. (4/6/11)--Washington state’s House of Representatives Friday passed a bill for a prized-linked savings program that will allow credit unions and banks to offer savings accounts linked to prize drawings, as is the case in four other states. Because of a minor amendment to the bill in the house, it is being sent back to the Senate, which approved the bill earlier. It then would go on to the governor to be signed into law. “We held up the bill for a couple of days to vet an additional floor amendment designed to clarify an amendment offered--and approved--in committee that requires savers to keep their funds in the account for a year,” Stacy Augustine, senior vice president and general counsel for the Northwest Credit Union Association, told News Now. “[Wash. State Rep.] Gary Alexander’s (R-20) intention was to keep people from gaming the system. Our floor amendment clarified that savers don’t need to keep their funds in the account for a full year to win the smaller, monthly prizes, just the annual grand prize,” she said. The bill was heartily approved in both the House and the Senate, Augustine added. “There were a couple of no votes in both houses from legislators who traditionally express concerns about bills that might expand gambling,” she said. “We’ve met with most of them to allay their concerns since.” The association is not anticipating any real problems in the bill becoming law, Augustine added. “I think there were two real keys to getting the bill passed,” she said. “Making sure legislators don’t perceive it as an expansion of gambling, and making sure the other financial institutions are included so that they don’t feel like credit unions are just creating another program to ‘steal’ their customers. Honestly, I don’t think that other financial institutions will be terribly interested in offering the program, but it was important to include them so that they didn’t feel excluded from it. “Amending any state law that could be perceived as gambling is always a tricky venture, so the association is very pleased that the bill has been approved by both the Senate and the House,” Augustine added. “We’ll now wait for the Senate to concur with the amendments made in the House, and look forward to having Gov. Christine Gregoire’s signature on the bill soon.” The bill has had the full support of the Washington Asset Building Coalition and the Doorways to Dreams Foundation, Augustine said.