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Washington Court Sides with Native American Tribes Blocking Potential Expansion of Sports Betting in the State

US District Court in Washington rejected a proposal seeking to strike down a piece of legislation that allows legal sports betting services to be offered at tribal casinos only, citing the sovereign immunity of Native American tribes as an important factor in its decision.

Reportedly, the recent ruling issued by the US District Court has come as a massive blow to the proponents of the measure, who have been hoping to expand sports betting throughout the state of Washington.

As previously reported by CasinoGamesPro, the owner and operator of several card rooms across the state – Maverick Gaming – started legal action against the state and federal officials in January 2022. The lawsuit accused state and federal officials of discriminating against the company by providing Native American tribes with the exclusive rights to offer sports betting and other types of gambling.

In the legal action against the state, Maverick Gaming asked the US District Court to invalidate the state’s sports betting law from 2020 and put any sports betting in the state on hold until local lawmakers make a new legislative effort to expand the new form of gambling beyond tribal casinos and other entities. The court, however, sided with the state and ruled that the lawsuit put local Native American tribes’ interests in jeopardy, considering the fact that there were legal gambling compacts signed between the Indian tribes and the state.

Sports Betting Expansion Outside Tribal Casinos Would Put Compact Agreements at Risk

Shoalwater Bay, which is one of the Native American tribes in the state, had become involved in the case, claiming that its gambling services would suffer an extremely negative impact in case the legal action prevailed.

According to the court’s ruling, proceeding with the revocation of the special gambling privileges of the tribe would put in jeopardy the livelihood and employment of both tribal and non-tribal residents and enterprises, apart from the tribe’s income and compact agreements. The US District Court of Washington acknowledged that the lawsuit was the only judicial form in which Maverick Gaming could seek to overturn the aforementioned sports betting law. As the court noted, legal precedent almost always supports dismissal in cases when a tribe cannot become part of a case because of its sovereign immunity assertion.

The Attorney General of the state, Bob Ferguson, welcomed the US District Court ruling as a really important victory when it comes to the autonomy of the tribes at a time when the Native American tribes in Washington state are dependent on gambling revenue to fund various social programs.

The Washington Indian Gaming Association lobbied for the advantages of tribal gambling, claiming that gambling profits generated by tribal casinos provide funding for extremely important community self-governance programs, associated with medical care, housing, and education. Rebecca George, the Executive Director of the Association, welcomed the court’s ruling as an important legal victory and a firm affirmation of the effective partnership between federal and state authorities and Native American tribes in the state of Washington.

 Author: Harrison Young

Harrison Young is an experienced writer, who started his career almost 8 years ago. Prior to joining our team at CasinoGamesPro, he worked as an editor for a small magazine.