SEATTLE — A federal lawsuit filed Tuesday claims Washington state officials unlawfully granted Native American casinos a ‘”discriminatory tribal gaming monopoly” over sports betting and other types of gambling.
The Seattle Times reports the lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., by Maverick Gaming LLC, which owns and operates 19 of 44 licensed card rooms in the state. Maverick and owner Eric Persson have unsuccessfully lobbied state lawmakers in recent years to expand sports gambling beyond tribal casinos.
Such gambling was approved only for tribal casinos in March 2020 and went into effect in September 2021 on a case-by-case basis.
Washington did enter into amended compacts with 15 tribes running various betting venues, the first of which, Snoqualmie Casino, began a sports-betting book in September, in time for the NFL season. The Stillaguamish and Kalispel tribes soon followed.
Tuesday’s lawsuit asks to invalidate the agreements that led to sports books being offered by those tribes and to effectively put sports gambling within Washington on hold.
Maverick alleges in the lawsuit that U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, Attorney General Bob Ferguson and current and ex officio members of the Washington State Gambling Commission are “irrationally and impermissibly discriminating on the basis of race and ancestry” by wrongfully applying the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) to prevent outside gambling competition to tribes.
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 gaming, because other states also have accommodated nontribal casinos.
Rebecca George, executive director of the Washington Indian Gaming Association, said the lawsuit was “a desperate attempt to overturn federal law”, legislative will and the sentiments of the general public.
“It would severely undermine the well regulated and safe system of limited gaming that has been established in Washington State over three decades of carefully negotiated compacts between the State of Washington and Native American tribes,” George said in a statement.