Court Dismisses Lawsuit Challenging Washington Tribal Sports Gaming

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Chief Judge David Estudillo of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington dismissed Maverick Gaming’s lawsuit challenging the state law that allows sports betting but limits bets to those placed at casinos owned by tribal nations.

Maverick Gaming filed its lawsuit last year against Governor Jay Inslee, Attorney General Bob Ferguson, and Washington State Gambling Commission members responsible for approving, enforcing and implementing tribal gaming compacts and laws in Washington.

In October 2022, the Shoalwater Bay Tribe filed a motion to dismiss the case after intervening as a defendant. The Attorney General’s Office, the federal government, and 17 tribes supported its motion.

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.

Had Maverick’s arguments prevailed, Ferguson said, 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.”

In 2020, Washington passed a law that allowed the state Gambling Commission to enter into compacts with Washington tribes to allow sports wagering within a tribal casino and its surrounding premises, using a geofenced virtual perimeter to block any outside access. Entry into tribal casinos is restricted to Washingtonians 18 years or older.

Ferguson opposed SB 5212, a competing bill in the Legislature that would have opened up mobile sports wagering to allow bets to be placed online anywhere in the state. Maverick Gaming supported that legislation.

Washington is one of more than 30 states in the country with sports betting of some kind. A 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling struck down an early 1990s federal prohibition on sports betting outside of Nevada.





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