Washington’s Snoqualmie Casino wins COVID-19 insurance claim lawsuit

Washington’s Snoqualmie Casino wins COVID-19 insurance claim lawsuit

The Snoqualmie Casino, a Washington tribal casino owned and operated by the federally-recognized Snoqualmie Indian Tribe, scored a considerable legal victory earlier this week when a federal court judge ruled that it can collect insurance money for damages incurred by COVID-19 pandemic.

The operator of the tribal gaming property sought compensation from its insurer, FM Global, so that it could make up for the losses and damages that it suffered due to pandemic-induced closure of its casino.

FM Global and its Washington subsidiary Affiliated FM denied to pay the compensation, arguing that it was not liable to pay the compensation as the pandemic caused no physical loss or damage to the casino.

The tribal gaming property had insurance coverage of $100,000. In other words, the casino’s insurance policy covered it for operating losses of up to $100,000 related to communicable disease. The operator of the casino contended that its $150 million overall insurance policy covered COVID-19 pandemic as the policy stipulated that the full coverage would shield the property from all risks of physical loss or damage.

Ruling in favor of the tribal gaming property, Washington Superior Court Judge Catherine Shaffer directed the insurer to sit with the tribe to determine a compensation figure higher than the coverage amount of $100,000 that it has already issued.

The federal judge concluded that the insurer’s insurance policy issued to the Snoqualmie Casino did not clearly state that it would not cover a pandemic like COVID-19.

Pronouncing her ruling, Judge Shaffer said, “A reasonable interpretation of the phrase is that the tribe was deprived of the ability to physically use or operate its properties because of the COVID-19-related closures.”

Just like commercial casinos, tribal gaming properties also sought compensations from their insurers. Courts largely sided with the insurers, but some casino operators also enjoyed a few victories, with the Snoqualmie Tribe being the latest of lucky few.

Meanwhile, the Snoqualmie Casino also announced the opening of a sportsbook, which is the first in entire Washington State. The opening of sportsbook at the tribal casino comes just ahead of the commencement of the NFL’s first regular season.

Equipped with a state-of-the-art gaming floor offering 1,700 slot machines and 54 table games, the Snoqualmie Casino is the closest gaming property to Seattle. It offers 1,700 slot machines and 54 table games. The property also offers a sportsbook, an outdoor concert venue, and multiple restaurants promising fine dining.