Arizona Sports Betting Launch Still On After Labor Day Hearing

Posted on September 6, 2021
Arizona sports betting
Posted By on September 6, 2021

Thursday‘s Arizona sports betting launch is still on track following a Labor Day hearing in Maricopa County Superior Court.

With the Yavapai-Prescott Tribe seeking a restraining order or temporary injunction to stop Arizona sports betting, Judge James Smith listened to arguments Monday from representatives of the tribe and the lawsuit’s defendants, Gov. Doug Ducey and Arizona Department of Gaming Director Ted Vogt.

Smith filed his position Monday night denying the tribe’s request. He expects the losing party to appeal the decision Tuesday.

Arizona sports betting is scheduled to launch Thursday, kicking off with NFL betting.

Yavapai-Prescott Tribe’s argument

The Yavapai-Prescott Tribe argues the Arizona sports betting laws breach the state’s constitution. Last week, the tribe filed a complaint asking for an injunction to stop the AZ sports betting launch.

The argument goes back to a 2002 voter initiative that limited gaming to tribal reservations. The tribe’s attorney, Nicole Simmons, also argued the enacting sports betting legislation and updated tribal compacts limit the growth of tribes outside the Phoenix metro area.

In his 12-page written ruling Monday evening, Smith repeatedly said the tribe failed to provide significant arguments to back up its complaints.

ADG and Ducey’s argument

Anni Foster, general counsel to the governor, presented for the defense and laid out a variety of reasons the tribe’s arguments are invalid. Foster said the 2002 voter proposition did not “promise tribes will forever have exclusive gaming rights” and allows the legislature to ensure the state’s gaming culture remains modern.

“They’re asking the court to turn back the clock so they can get a do-over,” Foster said. “[The tribe] did not demonstrate any of their arguments … [they] conflated their angst over HB 2772 with smoke and mirrors to support their allegations.”

The defendants received written support from multiple Arizona tribes.

How the AZ sportsbook case got here

In April, Ducey signed the enacting sports betting legislation and updated tribal compacts. The Yavapai-Prescott Tribe did not sign the compacts and explained the situation in the lawsuit as a “take-it-or-leave-it” offer.

The ADG worked through the sports betting rules during the summer, eventually awarding 18 licenses Aug. 27. The department issued all 10 available tribal licenses.

One of the Yavapai-Prescott Tribe’s main complaints was the distribution of available licenses. With 20 total licenses available, the ADG could award 10 to the state’s 22 tribes.

There are still two licenses available for professional sports organizations in the state.

Turf Paradise denied hearing on sports betting license

Smith declined to hear a case filed by Turf Paradise last week. Smith said the horse racing track did not exhaust all possible remedies to secure an Arizona sports betting license.

Turf Paradise applied for a sports betting license as a professional sports organization. The ADG did not award the track a license.

The judge wrote the track could appeal with the ADG and return to the court if it remains dissatisfied.

Another Arizona sports betting lawsuit coming?

A lawsuit could be on the table as PointsBet and Cliff Castle Casino Hotel look for a way to launch sports betting in Arizona. The partners were denied a license, despite allegedly receiving a license erroneously from the ADG initially.

“We are exploring all our options and no decision has been made on our next step,” a Cliff Castle Casino Hotel spokesperson wrote in an email to LSR last week.

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Pat Evans

Pat Evans is a Las Vegas-based reporter covering sports business. Evans previously worked at Front Office Sports and the Grand Rapids Business Journal. He has authored two books: Grand Rapids Beer and Nevada Beer.

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