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 to prevent outside gambling competition to Native American tribes.
There are two cardrooms in La Center, the Last Frontier Casino and the Palace Casino. Neither is owned by Maverick Gaming.
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.
The Washington Indian Gaming Association, which promotes the benefits of tribal gambling, has long argued that such betting is different from the commercial realm. It states that revenues from gambling in tribal casinos supports vital community self-government programs in housing, medical care and education.
It also argues that revenues from tribal casinos flow back into the broader Washington state community. And that it’s one of the state’s largest employers.