The U.S. District Court of Washington decided all bets are off for Maverick Gaming LLC regarding its challenge to tribal casinos. Last week, Judge David Estudillo dismissed Maverick’s suit, which challenged a state law permitting sports betting at tribal casinos and subsequent amendments to Washington’s tribal compacts effectuating the new bill’s provisions. As grounds for dismissal, the court cited Maverick’s failure to join Shoalwater Tribe — a necessary party — to the lawsuit.
Maverick, a local cardroom and out-of-state-casino operator, alleged the compact amendments violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and the Fifth Amendment’s equal protection clause. The lawsuit named various state and federal officials, including Washington Governor Jay Inslee, Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Washington State Gambling Commission members, and the U.S. Department of the Interior. The lawsuit argued that the state’s 2020 sports gambling law — and subsequent state-entered compacts with tribes — amounted to a “discriminatory tribal gaming monopoly” over sports betting and other gambling activities.
However, the suit failed to name any tribes that were party to the compacts, likely because the doctrine of sovereign immunity protects these tribes from being sued.
In September 2022, Shoalwater Tribe moved to intervene in the case and subsequently filed a motion to dismiss for failure to join a required party. The Shoalwater Tribe argued that it was the actual target of the lawsuit. Finding that Shoalwater had a “legally protected interest and the outcome of th[e] action [could] impair that interest” if the lawsuit excluded Shoalwater, the court dismissed Maverick’s claims. In doing so, the court rejected Maverick’s arguments that the United States could adequately protect Shoalwater’s interests.
Why It Matters
Traditionally, tribes have enjoyed exclusive dominion over gaming activities outside a handful of states that legalize gaming. However, after the Supreme Court’s decision in Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association legalized state sports-betting laws, some states now allow non-tribal participants to enter the industry. However, not all states follow this path, causing hopeful market entrants to resort to litigation and other tactics to accrue market share. However, the court’s dismissal of Maverick’s case demonstrates the latest setback to this effort.
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Ashley is a partner in the firm’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy + Enforcement (RISE) Practice Group and co-leader of the State Attorneys General practice. He focuses primarily on federal and state government regulatory and enforcement matters involving state attorneys general, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Drawing upon his experience as a deputy attorney general, Ashley has developed an extensive consumer practice with regard to the consumer financial services industry.
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