Washington State Gaming Operator Sues to Block Tribal Gaming Monopoly

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Maverick Gaming is determined to prove itself right. It has been fighting Washington State over its tribal gaming compacts for years and is now taking its fight to a federal court. If it were to win, the outcome could have serious ramifications for sports betting in several states, not just Washington.

Maverick Launches Drawn-out Battle

On Tuesday, Maverick filed a federal lawsuit alleging that Washington State officials granted tribal casinos a “discriminatory tribal gaming monopoly” over activities like sports betting and other forms of gambling.

Maverick Gaming LLC, which operates 19 of the 44 state-licensed card rooms, filed the lawsuit in US District Court, Washington, DC. In recent years, Eric Persson, the company’s CEO, has failed to lobby state legislators for sports gambling expansion beyond tribal casinos. Persson was fighting the state well before he moved the company’s headquarters there last year. Previously, Maverick was based out of Nevada, and Persson has been involved in his battle for two years.

Sports betting was only approved for tribal casinos in March 2020. It went into effect in September 2021, on a case-by-case basis. Maverick has introduced bills to expand such gambling to its card rooms. However, these efforts were unsuccessful and no similar attempts to expand gambling to card rooms were made during the legislative session.

Washington entered into amended compacts with 15 tribes that run betting venues. The first, Snoqualmie Casino, opened a sports-betting shop in September just in time for the NFL Season. Soon, the Stillaguamish tribes and Kalispel tribes followed.

Washington State Gaming Compact Illegal

Maverick claims that US Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, Washington Governor Jay Inslee, and Attorney General Bob Ferguson, along with ex-officio members of the Washington State Gambling Commission, are “impermissibly discriminating on the basis of race or ancestry” by incorrectly applying the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IRGA) to stop outside gambling competition to native tribes.

Persson asserts that the lawsuit was necessary because he believes the federal IGRA law in Washington is being applied incorrectly and creating an unconstitutional monopoly structure in which he cannot get a fair deal.

The lawsuit states that “these activities harm Maverick by making Maverick less able to compete with Tribes’ more extensive gaming offerings in Washington.”

Persson Brings Out the Big Guns

Helping Persson in his fight is attorney Ted Olson. Few lawyers have more expertise on the matter of sports betting in the US than he does. Olson was one of the lead attorneys in New Jersey’s fight to get PASPA repealed by the Supreme Court.

He asserts, “The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act was intended to guarantee parity between tribal and nontribal gaming, but unfortunately Washington State is misusing IGRA to instead create tribal monopolies on certain types of gaming, such as sports betting.”

The courts have already determined that Florida’s gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida crossed an invisible line. Should Persson and Olson find success in their legal battle, it could alter the course for other states, such as Wisconsin, that have launched tribal sports betting.

There are a lot of moving parts, but Persson has shown that he’s not going to give up the fight. He asserts, “Every day we wake up determined to bring sports betting to the mass population of Washington. And what we’re doing right now is just the logical next step towards that process.”

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