Maverick Gaming filed suit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on Tuesday, aiming to challenge what it claims is a sports betting monopoly held by tribal casino operators in Washington State.
The card room operator is challenging what it calls an “erroneous application” of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). Maverick believes tribal operators in the state are leveraging the casino exclusivity they gain through the IGRA and applying it to sports wagering. The company is bringing out the big legal guns in its effort to get a piece of Washington State’s sports wagering action, including Ted Olson, who represented New Jersey in the now famous 2018 Supreme Court ruling on the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PAPSA).
The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act was intended to guarantee parity between tribal and non-tribal gaming, but unfortunately Washington State is misusing IGRA to instead create tribal monopolies on certain types of gaming, such as sports betting,” said Olson in a statement.
Olson has argued 65 cases before the Supreme Court with a win rate of over 75 percent. In addition to PAPSA, he successfully argued to overturn a California vote banning gay marriage and the Bush v. Gore case stemming from the 2000 presidential election, among others.
Olson’s Supreme Court experience and success is relevant here because Maverick founder and CEO Eric Persson believes the case will ultimately be decided by the nation’s highest court.
Maverick Sees Precedent in Florida
Nearly two years ago, the Washington state House of Representatives voted 83-14 in favor of sports betting bill HB-2638, which ultimately became the sports wagering law there. As things stand today, bettors can only place sports wagers at tribal casinos. Likewise, mobile betting is only permitted in and around those venues.
When that legislation was passed, it drew heavy criticism from Maverick with Persson claiming it creates a tax-free monopoly for tribal operators. The bill was brought to the House floor under the auspices of it being an emergency, but Maverick procured an opinion from Washington Supreme Court Judge Philip A. Talmadge, who said there’s no valid reason to consider the sports betting bill in that light because it generates no tax revenue for the state.
The card room operator is optimistic a recent sports betting ruling in Florida sets favorable precedent for a ruling in its favor. In November, the DC Circuit Court invalidated tribal accords with Florida because off-reservation sports wagering was permitted. That litigation is ongoing in the US Court of Appeals.
The Washington Indian Gaming Association (WIGA) fired back, asserting the Maverick litigation undermines their compacts with the state.
“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,” WIGA Executive Director Rebecca George said in a statement.
Monopolies, No Online Betting not Working
Currently, sports wagering is live and legal in 30 states and Washington, DC and, in the wake of PAPSA, what’s become clear is that the states that are actually generating a decent amount of tax revenue from the activity are those with robust competitive landscapes and those permitting true mobile wagering.
Conversely, states with single-operator schemes and those that don’t allow mobile betting are merely bit players and aren’t accessing regulated sports betting’s growth potential to its fullest extent. For his part, Olson sees the Washington State tribes as trying to leverage IGRA to prevent the very competition that’s found in other states.
“Contrary to IGRA’s own words, the law is being used to insulate tribes in Washington State from competition that exists in many other states with legal gaming marketplaces. We look forward to resolving this matter so that IGRA’s intent and wording are reflected in Washington State’s regulated gaming marketplace for tribal and commercial businesses,” he said.
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