Expanded sports betting in Washington state currently on hold

Feb 23, 2023, 10:00 AM | Updated: 12:04 pm
Sports betting in Washington may have to be determined by the U.S. Supreme Court. (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit Tuesday that would have opened the door for expanded sports betting in Washington state.

Kirkland-based Maverick Gaming filed the complaint last year against Governor Jay Inslee, Attorney General Bob Ferguson, and members of the Washington State Gambling Commission. Maverick Gaming sought to strike down a state law that limits sports betting to casinos owned by tribal nations. The lawsuit accused state and federal officials of granting a “discriminatory tribal gaming monopoly” to tribal casinos.

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Last October, the Shoalwater Bay Tribe filed a motion to dismiss the case on the grounds that its gambling activities would suffer if the lawsuit was successful but also that it could not be part of the case under “sovereign immunity.” Chief Judge David Estudillo of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington agreed, ruling the lawsuit posed “a substantial risk” to the “sovereign interests” of Indian tribes who entered into legal agreements with the state to administer sports betting.

Maverick Gaming said in a statement to KIRO Newsradio: “We expect that this will be resolved by the Supreme Court of the United States, and we will appeal [the] decision.”

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson praised the ruling, saying Maverick Gaming “sought to undermine tribal sovereignty by interfering with tribal nations’ right to self-determination.” His office also asserts, “gaming revenue has helped lift many tribal members above the poverty line across the country and provided strong employment opportunities for tribal members.”

In 2018, the Supreme Court struck down a 1992 federal law that effectively banned commercial sports betting in most states. That decision led Washington lawmakers to pass a law in 2020 allowing the state Gambling Commission to enter into compacts with Washington tribes to allow sports wagering within a tribal casino and its surrounding premises, using a geofenced virtual perimeter to block any outside access. The law went into effect on a case-by-case basis in September 2021.

Snoqualmie Casino was the first to offer a sports betting book in the fall of 2021. A total of 15 tribes now have sports betting agreements.

Legislation was introduced last month that would have allowed any existing cardroom or racetrack in Washington state to obtain a sports betting license. SB 5587/HB 1630, sponsored by State Senators King and Liias, and State Representatives Walen and Springer, respectively, did not make it out of committee before the deadline last Friday.

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Expanded sports betting in Washington state currently on hold