Maverick Gaming to appeal dismissal of Washington State sports betting lawsuit

Haley Hintze Author Photo
Haley Hintze
Posted on: February 24, 2023 23:09 PST

Maverick Gaming, the company led by high-stakes poker aficianado Eric Persson, will appeal the dismissal on Tuesday of its lawsuit against Washington State regarding the state's authorizaton of sports betting that is exclusively restricted to live wagering done at the state's tribal casinos.

Tuesday's dismissal by U.S. District Court Chief Judge David Estudillo of the Western District of Washington granted a motion to dismiss filed by the state's Shoalwater Bay Tribe last October. Seventeen other Washington tribal nations joined the State of Washington and applicable federal agencies in an amici ("friends of the court") motion backing Shoalwater Bay's dismissal effort.

Maverick Gaming's lawsuit, filed in January of 2022, sought to force Washington State to authorize sports betting more broadly, including online sports betting. The lawsuit alleged that the state's tribal-only authorization of sports betting was "inconsistent with IGRA," the 1988 federal law that in essence created the modern era of tribal casino gaming spanning most of the United States. Maverick's lawsuit in some areas paralleled the ongoing legal battle in Florida over exclusive sports-betting rights granted to that state's Seminole Tribe.

Maverick Gaming filed its notice of its intent to appeal on Wednesday after receiving Judge Estudillo's adverse opinion. A docket entry for the appeal has already been created in the U.S. Ninth District Court of Appeals, which includes Washington, though the case's existing documentation has yet to be cross-filed.

Washington State AG office trumpets ruling

A statement issued by Washington's Office of the Attorney General on Tuesday portrayed Maverick Gaming's effort primarily as an unauthorized attempt to expand into online gambling, though it also addressed the tribal-gaming exclusivity issue. On that topic, the Washington AG office wrote:

"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, [Washington State Attorney General Bob] 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,' Ferguson said. '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.'"

Ferguson, Washington Governor Jay Inslee, and several current and former members of the Washington State Gambling Commission were named as individual defendants in Maverick Gaming's original lawsuit.

Sports betting never covered under IGRA

Sports betting was not included as a gambling form authorized under 1988's IGRA (the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act), nor was it even considered for consideration. At that time, virtually all sports betting was banned across most of the United States under that era's federal interpretation of the 1961 Wire Act. Since the Wire Act was ruled unconstitutional in a series of court decisions spanning the last decade, sports betting has been an issue of legal contention in several states between tribal and commercial gambling interests.

Maverick Gaming is a significant player in Washington's card-room market, where it operates 22 of the state's nearly 50 licensed rooms. Maverick also has casino interests in Nevada and Colorado.

Featured image source: Maverick Gaming