A DC federal judge decided on Thursday to transfer to the Western District of Washington a lawsuit by cardroom operator Maverick Gaming LLC accusing officials of allowing Native American tribes to hold a decades-old monopoly on gambling rights, reports Law 360. U.S. District Judge Florence Y. Pan ruled that she lacked the authority to resolve the complaint.
In an oral order, Pan said that she lacks personal jurisdiction over the state defendants and the case should have been filed in the Western District of Washington, which is where Maverick has alleged the actions took place. Maverick’s lawsuit challenges Washington Tribes’ exclusivity on a number of gaming activities, including recently-legalized sports betting.
Kirkland-based Maverick Gaming is a Washington gaming and entertainment company that operates 19 of the state’s 44 licensed cardrooms. The business alleges an application of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) is being used inappropriately to give tribes a monopoly over sports betting, roulette and craps.
The Washington Indian Gaming Association (WIGA), a non-profit Indian gaming trade association representing federally recognized tribes in the state of Washington, celebrated Thursday’s ruling, which it sees as siding against Maverick Gaming.
“State officials successfully argued that the public interest in Washington State, as well as the private interest of the state defendants, would be most harmed by the lawsuit, and therefore the case should be decided by a court based in their own locale,” said the association. The WIGA describes Maverick’s lawsuit as seeking to undermine IGRA and challenging tribal sovereignty.
“We applaud the judge’s strong decision today to move Maverick’s anti-tribal gaming lawsuit to Washington State, where it should be heard,” said Rebecca George, Executive Director of the Washington Indian Gaming Association (WIGA). “Maverick Gaming’s lawsuit seeks to invalidate all tribal gaming compacts in Washington State and undermine the carefully crafted, limited and successful system of gaming we have developed here over three decades.”
According to George, Maverick’s plans would cause “irreparable harm” locally, not just to tribal communities “but also to the general public.” She described the decision for the case to be adjudicated in Washington State as “making sense.”
“Our tribal gaming compacts in Washington are rooted in respect for tribal sovereignty and represent decades of partnership between tribes and the State of Washington,” George further noted. “We are confident that the federal courts here will reject this blatant and destructive legal attack on tribal self-reliance.”
Maverick doesn’t see the situation in the same light. In a statement provided Friday to The Olympian, CEO and co-founder Eric Persson reiterated the company’s belief the tribe’s exclusivity agreement constitutes a monopoly that violates the IGRA.
“While we disagree with today’s decision by a D.C. District Court Judge to relocate our litigation to the Western District of Washington, we have always believed that the final decision on this issue will most likely be settled by the United States Supreme Court,” Persson said.
“We look forward to continuing our litigation in the Western District of Washington and believe that the defendants’ decision to pursue a different venue instead of confronting the merits of our litigation only underscores the strength of our position,” the statement further reads.
“An inclusive and regulated marketplace for sports betting will generate tax revenue for public services, create great family-wage jobs across our state and reduce the ongoing illicit marketplace that poses a substantial public safety risk with no guardrails to protect against problem gambling,” concluded the CEO.
According to the company, the law is being used to insulate tribes in Washington from competition “that exists in many other states” with legal gaming marketplaces. Maverick is requesting for the 29 Washington tribal gambling compacts to be declared illegal, given the IGRA seeks to approve gambling compacts if similar business opportunities are provided to non-tribal entities: this would not be the case under a monopoly, Maverick argues.
Contrastingly, the WIGA argues that Indian gaming under IGRA is intended to support tribes’ sovereignty and self-reliance “by ensuring tribes have the ability to conduct carefully regulated gaming activities, producing a revenue stream they can use to fund critically important services for their members and their communities.”
“We are hopeful the federal courts here will also reject Maverick’s attempt to remove the State of Washington and our elected officials as defendants in the case,” said George. “No amount of high priced Washington, D.C. attorneys can change the reality that Maverick’s lawsuit is a direct assault on the carefully limited and successful system of gaming we have established.”