OLYMPIA, Wash. — A federal lawsuit claims Washington state officials unlawfully granted Native American casinos a "discriminatory tribal gaming monopoly" over sports betting and other types of gambling.
The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., by Maverick Gaming LLC, which owns and operates 19 of 44 licensed card rooms in the state. Maverick and owner Eric Persson have unsuccessfully lobbied state lawmakers in recent years to expand sports gambling beyond tribal casinos.
Such gambling was approved only for tribal casinos in March 2020 and went into effect in September 2021 on a case-by-case basis.
Tuesday’s lawsuit asks to invalidate the agreements that led to sports books being offered by tribes.
"We just want the opportunity to compete. You know, it's it's fantastic that tribes have sports betting, we think we should have it too." Persson said.
"This isn't an either or, no matter how they try to frame it. There's room for both of us, and the truth is, they're a $2.4 billion business. We're a $50 million business. So you know, they're going be just fine," Persson said.
Persson estimates sports betting at Maverick Gaming's locations has the potential to double the company's revenue and generate $50 million in tax money for Washington state.
Rebecca George, executive director of the Washington Indian Gaming Association, said in a prepared statement that the lawsuit is a "desperate attempt to overturn federal law, the will of the Washington State legislature, state and federal agency decisions, and the clearly expressed sentiments of the general public in Washington State."
George further stated, "It would severely undermine the well regulated and safe system of limited gaming that has been established in Washington State over three decades of carefully negotiated compacts between the State of Washington and Native American tribes.
“Those compacts are fully in keeping with the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, as well as with state law, and have been repeatedly vetted at multiple levels of regulatory oversight. In short, this dangerous and destructive lawsuit is without merit, and were it to somehow be successful it would cause irreparable harm not only to historically marginalized tribal communities but also to the broader public, which opposes a massive expansion of gambling in their neighborhoods and communities. We will be reviewing their complaint more carefully, but Washington State’s tribes stand united in opposing any attempt to undermine the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, tribal compacts, and what the tribes have worked so hard to build.”