Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe Alleges Passage Of Arizona Sports Betting Law Was Illegal

Written By C.J. Pierre on August 27, 2021
Lawsuit Filed Over New Sports Betting Law

One Arizona tribe is taking the state to court over the state’s new sports betting law.

Attorneys for the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe filed a lawsuit against Gov. Doug Ducey and Arizona Department of Gaming Director Ted Vogt.

The tribe filed the lawsuit Thursday in Maricopa County Superior Court, alleging lawmakers illegally passed legislation that authorized state-regulated wagering in April.

The case documents include a motion for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction of the new law. Lawyers also filed a verified complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief. If approved by a judge, the suit could slam the brakes on sports betting launching in the state.

Yavapai-Prescott says elected officials violated state’s constitution

As first reported by KOLD News 13, the tribe’s attorneys argue the passage of the law violates the state’s Voter Protection Act, as it permits non-tribal gaming operators to offer gaming off tribal land.

Furthermore, the tribe claims the new law distorts the purpose of the Indian Gaming Preservation and Self-Reliance Act. That measure, passed in 2002, authorizes tribes to operate Class III gambling in Arizona tribal casinos.

Also in 2002, voters rejected another measure, the Fair Gaming Act, that would have permitted non-tribal gaming operators to enter the state.

The tribe believes the new legislation violates the state’s ban on special laws, providing unique benefits to specific groups or individuals. On top of it all, the suit adds that the law’s passage as an emergency measure, which allowed it to take effect immediately, was also unconstitutional.

Plaintiffs ask for a temporary restraining order, a preliminary (and, ultimately, permanent) injunction of gaming authorized by the new law. Summed up: If the suit is successful, all work to legalize sports betting in Arizona could be undone.

What sports betting may look like for Arizona tribes

Arizona’s sports betting legislation carved out 10 licenses for professional sports teams and venues as well as another 10 for tribes, allowing each licensee to open retail sportsbooks and AZ mobile betting apps.

The problem, however, is the state features more tribes than licenses carved out for that sect. And most were apparently interested in legal betting. The Arizona Department of Gaming received more applications than available licenses. As a result, some tribes will not offer online wagering. However, the ADG confirmed to PlayAZ that all tribal casinos can have retail sports betting.

Arizona has 22 federally recognized tribes, but only 16 operate casinos. The Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe runs two casinos in Prescott: Yavapai Casino and Bucky’s Casino.

Photo by AP / Matt York
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C.J. Pierre

CJ Pierre is a multimedia journalist currently residing in the Phoenix-Metro Area in Arizona. He has been covering news and sports for over a decade for both online and TV broadcasts. He was born and raised in Minneapolis and an alum of Minnesota State University: Moorhead. CJ has experience as a reporter and videographer and has covered high school, college and professional sports throughout his career. Most notably following Arizona Cardinals, Phoenix Suns, Minnesota Vikings and North Dakota State University football.

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