Home Gambling Industry Maverick Gaming takes Washington State to court over tribal gaming compacts

Maverick Gaming takes Washington State to court over tribal gaming compacts

14 Jan 2022
4 min. read

Eric Persson
In March 2020, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed House Bill 2638 into law. This legalized in-person sports betting at Class III gaming venues in the state. After amendments to their gaming contracts with the state had been ratified, nine tribal casinos were given the green light to offer sports betting. Not everyone was happy with the decision.

Gaming and entertainment company Maverick Gaming has filed litigation to challenge an "erroneous application" of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). This Act grants exclusive rights to certain types gaming to tribes within the state.

The legal challenge was filed in the US District Court for the District of Columbia. It stated that the state is using the IGRA "inappropriately," to grant tribes exclusive gaming rights such as sports betting. This was, however, not extended to non-tribal venues, such as commercial cards rooms in the state. This, asserts Maverick, is a violation of the IGRA. Maverick has tried for years to fight Washington State's compacts.

The cardrooms can only offer up to 15 table games, but they are not allowed to offer any type of sports betting. Washington State currently has 44 cardrooms licensed, with 19 being operated by Maverick.

Maverick Gaming wants to challenge this approach. They have a legal team, including Theodore Olson, who represented New Jersey in 2018's Wire Act case that led to the repeal of PASPA (the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act). This resulted in states being allowed to create legal, regulated and taxed sports betting markets.

Olson stated that the IGRA was meant to ensure parity between tribal gaming and non-tribal gaming. However, Washington State is using it to create tribal monopolies in certain types of gambling, such as sports betting.

"Contrary to IGRA's own words, the law is being used to insulate tribes in Washington State from competition that exists in many other states with legal gaming marketplaces," asserts Olson.

Eric Persson, Maverick's co-founder and CEO, states, "We support and respect tribal equality and sovereignty. Our decision to file this litigation is founded on the same values that we have brought to all of our efforts at Maverick Gaming."

He adds, "[Access] to economic opportunity relies on a fair application of laws such as the IGRA and I am hopeful that this lawsuit will be resolved successfully so that tribal casinos and smaller commercial cardrooms like those owned by Maverick Gaming may offer the same types of legal gaming, such as sports betting, just like commercial cardrooms and tribal casinos already offer in other states."

Rebecca George, executive director of the Washington Indian Gaming Association (WIGA), criticized the challenge and described it as a desperate attempt that could prove dangerous and destructive for the state.

George stated that Maverick Gaming's new federal lawsuit was a desperate attempt at overturning federal law, the wills of Washington State legislators, state and federal agency decisions, and the clearly expressed feelings of the Washington State 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," she asserts.

Not only could it impact Washington State tribes, but it could cause a ripple effect across the country. All tribal gaming compacts have to be approved by the Department of the Interior before they can be implemented. That approval is based on the department's interpretation of the IGRA. Should Maverick win, it could cause all gaming compacts across the US to be subjected to scrutiny.

14 Jan 2022
4 min. read