Analysis: How Early Maverick WA Sports Betting Loss Sets Up Florida Case

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WA sports betting

It was October 28, 2022, the last time that the PACER docket had been updated in one of the most watched gaming cases around the country, this one related to WA sports betting.

The case involving Maverick Gaming was captioned as being versus the United States, or more specifically, the Department of the Interior, as well as a number of Washington State-based officials.

However, it was a motion to intervene filed by the Shoalwater Bay Tribe, which argued they were a required party, ultimately resulting in the case being dismissed by David G. Estudillo, United States District Judge for the Western District of Washington, on Tuesday.

What to make of WA sports betting decision?

There are both direct and indirect effects from this decision to watch. First, the direct effects: Maverick is already cited as intending to appeal the decision of the District Court, which would send the case to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. While it is impossible to know for sure, given that Maverick has retained Ted Olson, it would appear at least a good possibility that even if Maverick were to strike out again at the Ninth Circuit, this case could end up with the plaintiff filing a cert petition at the Supreme Court.

While we wait for the appeal to be docketed, all eyes now will turn to the D.C. Court of Appeals, where we await a ruling on the Florida sports betting litigation between West Flagler Associates, and the Department of the Interior and the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which is positioned similarly to the Shoalwater Bay Tribe, though achieved the opposite result at the D.C. District Court.

The seemingly disparate results involving similarly situated parties could up the likelihood that the Supreme Court ends up taking a case on this issue, should that point ever come. Until then, all eyes will be on the D.C. Court of Appeals for its decision.

Recapping WA sports betting case

Maverick Gaming is a multi-state operator of various gaming facilities, including 18 cardrooms in the state of Washington. Maverick filed suit alleging that Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland acted improperly when the department approved the latest round of compacts between tribes located in Washington and the state itself.

The arguments made in the complaint are that the approval of the compacts, which grant tribes the ability to offer sports betting in Washington, violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) and the Equal Protection Clause. The Equal Protection Clause argument was based on the idea that there is a preferencing of one group over others in the award of gaming rights.

However, those issues are for another day.

Tribal intervention changes the game

That is because the Shoalwater Bay Tribe, which was not named as a defendant in the lawsuit filed a motion to intervene in the case in August of last year. The Western District of Washington federal court granted the Shoalwater Bay Tribe’s motion to intervene on a limited basis in late September

Within a week, the Tribe filed a motion to dismiss for failure to join a required party. Maverick, naturally, opposed the motion to dismiss arguing that the Tribe was not a required party and that its interests could be adequately represented by the Department of the Interior.

For its part, the Department of the Interior “supported the motion but disagreed with some of the bases for the motion.”

The Shoalwater Bay Tribe argued that the complaint should be dismissed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12 (b)(7), which provides for dismissal when the plaintiff files a lawsuit without naming an indispensable party under Rule 19.

The Court says …

The Western District of Washington Court’s Rule 19 analysis opens by stating:

The Court agrees Shoalwater is a required party.

An absentee is a required party if “in that person’s absence, the court cannot accord complete relief among existing parties; or … that person claims an interest relating to the subject of the action and is so situated that disposing of the action in the person’s absence may … as a practical matter impair or impede the person’s ability to protect the interest.”

Fed. R. Civ. P. 19(a)(1).

Judge Estudillo recognized the sovereign immunity of the Shoalwater Bay Tribe from lawsuits if they do not consent in his decision. While Maverick argued that the Shoalwater Bay Tribe does not have sufficient interests that would not be adequately represented by the Department of the Interior, the District Court disagreed.

From what I hear, you’ve made yourself indispensable …

It found that even the federal government, who “disagrees with the ruling in Dine Citizens [controlling precedent] and reserves the right to assert in future proceedings that the United States is generally the only required and indispensable defendant,” acknowledges that within the Ninth Circuit, the Shoalwater Bay Tribe (and conceivably other similarly situated tribes) are an indispensable defendant.

Judge Estudillo writes:

The Court agrees with Shoalwater that, based on circuit precedent, it has a legally protected interest and the outcome of this action may impair that interest if it was not included as a party. Shoalwater and the Amici highlight the importance of their gaming compacts and the revenue that such compacts provide for Washington’s federally recognized tribes … 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.” (internal citations omitted)