Arizona Sports Betting Lawsuit Not Finished Just Yet

Posted on September 14, 2021 - Last Updated on September 15, 2021
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Written By on September 14, 2021
Last Updated on September 15, 2021

The Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe is making another attempt to stop Arizona sports betting.

The tribe filed an amended complaint Thursday against Gov. Doug Ducey and Arizona Department of Gaming Director Ted Vogt in the Maricopa County Superior Court. The Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe’s first request for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction was denied on Labor Day.

Three days later, Arizona sports betting launched and quickly established itself as a top market, accounting for 10% of US bets during NFL opening weekend.

What is the AZ sports betting lawsuit about?

The Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe argues the expansion of Arizona gaming is unconstitutional. Arizona’s legislature expanded the industry through HB 2772, which Ducey signed with updated tribal compacts in April.

The Yavapai-Prescott did not sign the compacts, claiming they were “take-it-or-leave-it.” The tribe also believes HB 2772 is unconstitutional and that gaming must expand through voter initiatives, not legislative action.

In a notice of intent to intervene, Tonto Apache Tribe Chairman Calvin Johnson said the Yavapai-Prescott refused to negotiate with the state and always planned to “simply sue the state” if it was not happy with the outcome. The Tonto Apache was one of 10 tribes the ADG awarded a sports betting license on Aug. 27.

First Arizona lawsuit ruling

In his Labor Day ruling, Judge James Smith said the tribe failed to prove the four arguments needed for injunctive relief.

Those four points are:

  • Likelihood of success on the merits
  • Possibility of irreparable harm if the court does not grant the requested relief
  • A balance of hardships favoring the tribe
  • Public policy favors granting the injunction

A possible argument?

Smith said the tribe failed to argue most of those points. However, in his order, Smith wrote the tribe might have a legitimate case arguing a violation of the Equal Protection Clause:

“Tribes using trust land for expanded gambling is a much different argument than H.B. 2772’s treating tribes differently than Sports Franchise Owners,” Smith wrote. “And that difference between tribes and sports franchises was the thrust of the Motion. The tribe could not use its Reply to broaden the argument.

“Those may be legitimate and serious issues to explore in this litigation, but they do not justify the injunction the Tribe requested.”

Big start for Arizona sports betting

Arizona sports bettors eagerly awaited the launch of sports betting, which coincided with the opening NFL game Sept. 9.

Those bettors have quickly proved the market to be robust, trailing just three markets in bets over the weekend:

Not all of the 18 licensed mobile AZ sportsbooks were operational the first weekend, so more options will hit the Grand Canyon State soon.

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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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