Cardroom operator files lawsuit, wants tribal gambling ‘monopoly’ in Washington to be suspended until extended
A federal lawsuit with potentially wide-ranging implications was filed on Tuesday claiming Washington state officials unlawfully granted Native American casinos a “discriminatory tribal gaming monopoly” on sports betting and other types of gambling such as roulette and craps.
The lawsuit was filed in United States District Court in Washington, DC, by Maverick Gaming LLC, which owns and operates 19 of the state’s 44 licensed card rooms. Maverick and owner Eric Persson have lobbied state lawmakers in recent years unsuccessfully to expand sports gambling beyond tribal casinos.
These games of chance were approved only for tribal casinos in March 2020 and came into effect in September 2021 on a case-by-case basis. Maverick, originally from Nevada but who transferred his activities to Kirkland, had pushed bills to extend these games of chance to his card rooms. But those efforts never resulted in a vote, and a similar attempt in this legislative session was turned down last week before it was even heard.
Washington has made amended deals with 15 tribes operating various betting sites, the first of which, Snoqualmie Casino, started a sportsbook book in September, in time for the NFL season. The Stillaguamish and Kalispell tribes soon followed.
Tuesday’s lawsuit calls for the agreements that led to the offer of sports betting by these tribes to be overturned and for sports betting to be effectively suspended in Washington.
Maverick alleges in the lawsuit that US Home Secretary Deb Haaland, Washington Governor Jay Inslee, Attorney General Bob Ferguson and current and ex-officio members of the Washington State Gambling Commission are ” irrational and impermissible discrimination on the basis of race and descent ”by wrongly applying the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) to prevent gambling competition outside of Native American tribes.
Persson said in an interview that he would continue his legislative efforts to reach sports and other gambling in his card rooms. But he said the lawsuit is necessary because he believes federal IGRA law is misapplied in Washington and creates an unconstitutional monopoly system in which he cannot get a fair shake from lawmakers.
“I think there is a big gap between the judicial system and the legislative system,” Persson said. “And I think as that clears up and lawmakers understand that the IGRA is being wrongly enforced in Washington state, I think they’re going to engage us.” And for me, this is just a logical next step.
The lawsuit says gambling revenues for the state’s tribal casinos exceeded $ 2.5 billion in 2017, even before sports betting was added.
“These activities hurt Maverick by making it harder for Maverick to compete with the much larger tribal gaming offerings in Washington,” the lawsuit said.
The allegations in the lawsuit have not yet been refuted in court and do not necessarily constitute statements of fact.
It should be noted that one of the attorneys representing Maverick in the lawsuit, Ted Olson, was lead counsel for the state of New Jersey in the successful United States Supreme Court challenge that overturned in 2018 a federal law prohibiting sports betting in everything except Las Vegas and a handful of other places. Once the “Christie v NCAA” case was settled in Olson and New Jersey’s favor, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 was struck down and states were effectively left to chart their own. sport game course.
More than two dozen states have legalized some form of sports gambling, including Washington. But the lawsuit filed Tuesday argues that Washington is different from other states that have allowed tribal gambling because other states have also hosted non-tribal casinos.
“The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act was intended to ensure parity between tribal and non-tribal games, but unfortunately Washington State is misusing the IGRA to instead create tribal monopolies on certain types of games, such as than sports betting, “Olson said in a statement. “Contrary to IGRA’s own words, the law is used to insulate the tribes of Washington State from the competition that exists in many other states with legal gambling markets. We look forward to resolving this issue so that the intent and wording of the TLIG is reflected in the Washington State Regulated Gaming Market for Tribal and Commercial Businesses.
The ruling by the same Washington, DC court, which has now suspended the future of sports betting in Florida, has raised some hopes for the lawsuit. The court ruled in November that a tribal pact last May between Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe was unconstitutional because it violated the IGRA. The Washington, DC Court of Appeals two weeks ago issued a motion dismissing the Seminole Tribe’s request to stay the decision, meaning no sports games can take place in Florida at this time.
The Tribe’s Hard Rock Sportsbook closed after the ruling was released.
Maverick is looking for a similar stop here.
Washington has some of the toughest anti-gambling laws in the country, with any form of online betting considered a Class C crime. The decision to even grant tribal-only sports betting was seen as a major change. Such bets are limited within the casino only, including any mobile bets. A digital geofence security component restricts mobile sports betting to tribal casino grounds.
Mobile betting is the fastest growing sports betting industry. Persson said he would also limit it to his card room premises, just as the law requires of Native American casinos.
“There is room for everyone in this business,” he said. “We are not overlapping the tribes. “
The Washington Indian Gaming Association, which promotes the benefits of tribal gaming, has long argued that such betting is very different from the commercial realm. It says gambling revenues at tribal casinos support vital community-based self-government programs in housing, medical care and education.
He also argues that the revenue from the tribal casinos is flowing back into the wider Washington state community. And that it is one of the largest employers in the state.
But Maverick maintains that none of it matters. That it is constitutionally guaranteed the same rights as tribal casinos to offer sports betting and other gambling on its lands.
“Every day we wake up determined to bring sports betting to the mass population of Washington,” said Persson. “And what we’re doing right now is just the next logical step in this process.”