Chief Judge David Estudillo of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington has dismissed Maverick Gaming’s lawsuit challenging Washington’s state law that permits sports betting, limited to retail betting at tribal gaming venues.

The Maverick Gaming lawsuit is the latest in a string of commercial operators meeting vehement opposition from tribal gaming stakeholders and lawmakers alike when it comes to gaming regulation. The release states: ‘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’.

Who was Maverick’s lawsuit filed against in Washington?

Maverick’s lawsuit was filed against Governor Jay Inslee, Attorney General Bob Ferguson and members of the Washington State Gambling Commission, namely ex officio commissioners:

  • Rep. Shelley Kloba (Kirkland)
  • Rep. Brandon Vick (Vancouver)
  • Sen. Steve Conway (Tacoma)
  • Sen. Jeff Holy (Cheney)

The aforementioned personnel are those responsible for the approval, design, implementation and enforcement of tribal gaming compacts and laws in the state of Washington. The Maverick Gaming case has been rumbling on for some time, being filed on January 11th 2022.

Maverick’s case was ‘challenging an erroneous application of a federal law called the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) that is being relied upon to give tribes exclusive rights to certain types of gaming that are not allowed in non-tribal commercial gaming properties in Washington.’ It added that although it ‘respected IGRA and its aim of supporting tribal equity and sovereignty, IGRA was intended to guarantee parity between tribal and non-tribal gaming.’ It argued that in Washington, however, the law is being used to insulate tribes against competition and grant tribal monopolies.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson argued that should Maverick’s arguments have prevailed, the case could have set precedent and caused consequences far beyond casino gaming, by undermining long-established principles of tribal sovereignty and self-determination. He said: “This is a significant victory for tribal sovereignty. 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.”

Maverick has previously backed SB 5212, a competing bill to the one passed in Legislature, which would have allowed Washington mobile sports wagering across the state. Ferguson opposed the bill. The Washington case strikes similarities to the recent California sports betting debacle. In CA, Proposition 26 and Proposition 27 both made it to the public ballot which took place in November 2022.

This isn’t the first example of the tribal gaming power dynamic

Proposition 26 would have allowed tribal gaming locations to offer sports betting in person (as well as broadening tribal venues legal gaming catalog) and was voted against by 68.46% to 31.54%. Proposition 27, which would have permitted statewide mobile gaming from commercial operators (akin to Maverick’s argument in Washington), was voted down by 83.05% to 16.95%.

Recent precedent shows the power of tribal compacts, and the importance of tribal gaming across the US commercial landscape. Oklahoma sports betting or online gaming would likely hinge on the huge state tribal presence, and the current legislative movements regarding Texas sports betting and the prospective votes at the ballot will also be heavily impacted by tribal opinion.