Washington sports betting remains limited to tribal casinos for now, after a challenge to the state’s tribal monopoly failed Tuesday.
U.S. District Court Judge David Estudillo dismissed cardroom operator Maverick Gaming’s antitrust challenge to WA sports betting agreements with native tribes. Estudillo ruled that the Shoalwater Bay tribe needed to be part of the lawsuit, as it would be affected by the outcome, but could not be because of its sovereign status.
While an immediate setback for Maverick Gaming, the decision reignites conversation around expanding Washington sports betting’s in-person, tribal only model, a possibility through legislative action. Over a dozen tribes amended their compacts to offer sports betting since Washington legalized sports betting at tribal casinos in 2020.
Two proposals to expand Washington sports betting are pending with committees in 2023.
Federal representation in WA sports betting dispute
Estudillo agreed with Shoalwater’s arguments that it would be significantly affected by the ruling because it relies heavily on sports betting revenue the outcome of the case could impact.
“Given this history, and the economic and sovereign rights implicated by Maverick’s suit, the Court agrees that Shoalwater is ‘necessary, and if not susceptible to joinder, indispensable to litigation seeking to decimate that contract’,” Estudillo said.
The court dismissed Maverick’s argument that federal attorneys on the case could represent the tribe because they have done so in past Indian Gaming Regulatory Act challenges.
While federal defendants have an interest in defending the tribe, they do not share an interest in the outcome of the case, especially when contractual rights are at issue, Estudillo said.
Maverick Gaming to appeal decision
Maverick will appeal the decision, CEO Eric Persson, in an emailed statement, reiterated his belief that the case will go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Maverick is represented by the famed Ted Olson, a partner at Gibson Dunn, who successfully represented New Jersey in the lawsuit that paved the way for legal sports betting beyond Nevada. It operates 19 of the state’s 44 cardrooms.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson celebrated the decision as “a significant victory for tribal sovereignty.” Ferguson and 17 state tribes filed briefs supporting Shoalwater Bay in their motion to dismiss the case.
Washington Indian Gaming Association executive director Rebecca George called it “an important legal victory,” and an affirmation of the “collaborative and productive partnership that Washington’s tribes have developed with state and federal officials to create a safe, limited, and well-regulated system of gaming in Washington State.”