Featured in this article:
  • Card room operator alleges Washington's new regulated sportsbooks are illegal.
  • Only Tribal casinos are allowed to operate sportsbooks in Washington.
  • Suit alleges Tribal exclusivity discriminates based on race.

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FILE - Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird (10) plays during the first half of the Commissioner's Cup WNBA basketball game against the Connecticut Sun, Thursday, Aug. 12, 2021, in Phoenix. Sue Bird announced Friday, Jan. 7, 2021, that she will return to the Seattle Storm next season, putting off retirement for at least one more year. (AP Photo/Matt York, File)

A card-room operator filed a lawsuit alleging WA State sports betting is illegal. The lawsuit alleges Washington unfairly grants Native American casinos a “discriminatory gaming monopoly.”

The state launched sports betting just this past September. However, the market is limited to in-person wagering at Tribal casinos. Now, Maverick Gaming LLC is challenging the new tribal-state gaming compacts allowing sportsbooks as racially discriminatory.

WA State Sports Betting Limited to Tribal Casinos

At issue in the lawsuit is whether by granting tribal casinos the exclusive right to operate sportsbooks in Washington, the state is discriminating based on race. The lawsuit lists Governor Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson as defendants, as well as U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and members of the Washington State Gambling Commission.

Seattle Skyline

Seattle residents need to find their nearest Tribal casino to place bets.

All tribal-state gaming compacts are subject to the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior, and Secretary Haaland signed off on each of the new compacts in Washington. The 15-plus Wa State Tribes operating sportsbooks all operate under this system.

Washington changed its typically stiff gambling laws to carve out an exception for both tribal casinos and sportsbooks. However, it limited wagering to casino property and did not include a provision for statewide mobile or online betting.

Maverick Gaming Has Long History with Washington Sports Betting

The company suing to try and stop Wa State sports betting has a long history of aiming to expand the state’s gambling options. Maverick Gaming has backed lobbying efforts to change sportsbook laws that would allow card rooms and pari-mutuel racetracks the ability to purchase a sports betting license.

Maverick Gaming operates 19 card rooms in Washington. There are a total of 44 licensed card rooms, so Maverick has nearly half of the market share. Card rooms are one of the few gambling facilities allowed under Washington law, besides tribal casinos.

The card room company hopes to convince a federal judge that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) is not designed to give Tribal gaming interests state-level monopolies on gambling. In their lawsuit, Maverick argues that the IGRA was intended to put Tribal casinos on even footing with commercial gambling.

Therefore, using IGRA and tribal-state compacts to prevent commercial entry from the casino and sportsbook market would be illegal, under this theory. Essentially, the state is picking winners and losers based on race, according to Maverick’s lawsuit.

The card room is certainly hoping recent court cases regarding the IGRA will help its cause. Florida had to shutter its nascent regulated sportsbooks after a federal judge found its new Tribal-state gaming compact ran afoul of the IGRA.

However, that ruling hinged not on Tribal exclusivity but on gaming occurring off Tribal property. Wa State sports betting specifically limits wagering to Tribal land, which will likely be a problem for Maverick’s prospects.

Cliff Spiller

Cliff Spiller is a veteran casino writer with decades of experience writing online casino reviews and game guides. His betting strategy articles, and gambling news updates have been a fixture in the industry since 2004.

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