Shoalwater Bay Tribe files legal action against Maverick Gaming

The Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe has filed a legal motion against a company run by a tribal member.

The Washington Indian Gaming Association tells KXRO that the local tribe has filed the legal motion to strike down Maverick Gaming’s federal sports betting and gambling expansion lawsuit.

The Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe filed a motion in federal court in Tacoma seeking to intervene in card room operator Maverick Gaming’s pending lawsuit against federal and state agencies and officials.

Maverick Gaming’s CEO, a Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe member, has asked in the lawsuit to end exclusivity to betting for Washington State tribal gaming compacts and expand gambling to neighborhood card rooms.

Maverick Gaming owns and operates 19 cardrooms in Washington, as well as casinos in Colorado and Nevada. Maverick seeks to expand its gaming offerings in Washington to include additional games such as roulette, craps, sports betting, and dealer-assisted electronic table games, but it is unable to do so because Washington allows only Indian tribes to offer these forms of gaming within the State.

In the lawsuit filed in federal court in January, Maverick Gaming’s CEO, Eric Persson, looks to allow card rooms in Washington to be open to offer every form of gaming offered at tribal casinos.

The lawsuit states that “With a monopoly over most forms of casino-style gaming, the Tribes have established expansive casino operations in Washington. This class III gaming monopoly has been extremely profitable for the Tribes.” adding that “…the monopoly prevents non-tribal entities from competing on an equal footing with the Tribes.”

The tribe says this goes against Washington law and called on the court to dismiss Maverick’s lawsuit as “a blatant violation of tribal sovereignty”. 

In the filing, the Shoalwater Bay Tribe’s lawyers write that Persson “now seeks to destroy, through his requested prayer for relief in the instant litigation, the major source of employment and discretionary revenue for his own Tribe… Accordingly, the Tribe is compelled to seek limited intervention in this case and bring an end to his efforts to undermine his own Tribe’s very efforts to achieve economic self-sufficiency and provide adequate governmental services to its membership..”

The lawsuit from Maverick is directed against the United States government and various federal and state officials, although WIGA states that “Washington Tribes are the true target of the suit.”

WIGA adds that because the tribes cannot be legally sued due to their sovereign immunity, the filing argues that the case must be dismissed.

“We did not take this action to seek the dismissal of Maverick Gaming’s lawsuit lightly. It pains us to have to legally oppose a member of our own tribe,” said Charlene Nelson, Chair of the Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe. “But Eric Persson’s lawsuit left us no choice. If successful, this self-serving case would cause irreparable harm to historically marginalized tribal communities and to the general public as well.”

She added, “It is also clear to us that Maverick’s lawsuit is just one prong of a broader national assault on tribal sovereignty. It’s not a coincidence that the high-powered law firm representing Maverick is the same firm that is also challenging the federal Indian adoption law before the U.S. Supreme Court. Just as tribes are building economic independence and regaining their self-reliance, there are powerful forces at work seeking to roll back the clock and take away what we have fought so hard over the years to restore.”

“Washington’s tribes stand united behind the Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe. Maverick’s lawsuit makes a mockery of the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), which has been the foundation for growing tribal self-reliance over the last three decades,” said Rebecca George, Executive Director of the Washington Indian Gaming Association. “The intent of IGRA was to help tribes to regain their self-reliance by ensuring they have the ability to conduct carefully regulated gaming activities, producing a revenue stream they can use to fund critically important services for their members and their communities. It was never intended to give private, non-tribal gambling companies the right to override state laws and offer every gaming activity that tribes offer in neighborhood card rooms spread across nearly every community in the state.”

In September 2021, the Shoalwater Bay Tribe received approval to begin sports betting at their Tokeland casino.

The Federal Register posted the approval from the U.S. Department of the Interior and Bureau of Indian Affairs that approves the Shoalwater, Muckleshoot and Confederated Tribes of Colville proposals.

Plans and efforts to expand the Shoalwater Bay Casino to add the local sports betting are still underway.