Court dismisses lawsuit challenging Washington tribal sports gaming 

On Tuesday, 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 members of the Washington State Gambling Commission, including ex officio commissioners: Sens. Steve Conway, D-Tacoma, and Jeff Holy, R-Cheney, and Reps. Shelley Kloba, D-Kirkland, and Brandon Vick, R-Vancouver. These state officials are 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 for that purpose. The Attorney General’s Office, the federal government and 17 tribes (as amici or friends-of-the-court) supported its motion.

Maverick’s lawsuit sought to go beyond tribal sovereignty with sports betting, allowing the gambling at private card rooms and businesses outside tribal land. 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 asserts, 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 had opposed SB 5212, a competing bill in the Legislature that would have opened up mobile sports wagering to allow bets to be placed online from anywhere in the state. Maverick Gaming supported that legislation.