TACOMA, WA – Chief Judge David Estudillo of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington dismissed Maverick Gaming’s lawsuit challenging the state law that allows sports betting, but limits bets to those placed at casinos owned by tribal nations.
Maverick Gaming filed its lawsuit last year against Governor Jay Inslee, Attorney General Bob Ferguson and members of the Washington State Gambling Commission, including ex officio commissioners: Senators Steve Conway (D-Tacoma) and Jeff Holy (R-Cheney), and Representatives Shelley Kloba (D-Kirkland) and Brandon Vick (R-Vancouver). These state officials are responsible for approving, enforcing and implementing tribal gaming compacts and laws in Washington.
In October 2022, the Shoalwater Bay Tribe filed a motion to dismiss the case after intervening as a defendant for that purpose. The Attorney General’s Office, the federal government and 17 tribes (as amici or friends-of-the-court) supported its motion.
Maverick’s lawsuit sought to undermine tribal sovereignty by interfering with tribal nations’ right to self-determination – including the right to conduct lawful gaming activities at tribal casinos. Federal and state law support tribal gaming rights when tribes and states enter agreements about how to conduct and regulate gaming operations. Tribes in Washington State have a proven track record of successfully operating and regulating gaming facilities in accordance with such gaming compacts. Had Maverick’s arguments prevailed, Ferguson asserts, this could have had consequences beyond casino gaming by undermining long-established principles of tribal sovereignty and self-determination.
“This is a significant victory for tribal sovereignty,” said Ferguson. “Washington law strikes the right balance by permitting sports betting and confining it to tribal casinos, where tribes have experience carefully regulating gambling where individuals must be physically present.”
Gaming revenue has helped lift many tribal members above the poverty line across the country and provided strong employment opportunities for tribal members.
In 2020, Washington passed a law that allowed the state Gambling Commission to enter into compacts with Washington tribes to allow sports wagering within a tribal casino and its surrounding premises, using a geofenced virtual perimeter to block any outside access. Entry into tribal casinos is restricted to Washingtonians 18 years or older.
Ferguson opposed SB 5212, a competing bill in the Legislature that would have opened up mobile sports wagering to allow bets to be placed online from anywhere in the state. Maverick Gaming supported that legislation.
A recent New York Times investigation looked into online sports betting and noted, “The rapid rise of online sports betting has radically changed how millions of people consume sports and enabled them to legally engage in potentially addictive behavior from the comfort of their living rooms.” The stories detailed how industry lobbyists encouraged state lawmakers to vote for bills legalizing mobile sports wagering and also how they have lobbied state universities and colleges to promote gambling to college students.