Yavapai-Prescott Indian tribe sues to stop sports betting in Arizona

Arizona sports betting launch slated for September 9 could hit major hurdlebecause a tribe in the Prescott area sued the state, claiming that the new law that allowed gambling was unconstitutional and that rural tribes were heavily armed by the governor’s office to agree to its terms.

The Yavapai-Prescott Indian tribe, which operates Bucky’s and Yavapai casinos near Prescott, was one of two tribes that did not sign new gambling agreements with the state earlier this year as part of a negotiation with Governor Doug Ducey.

The new deals allowed the tribes to expand their casinos and offer new table games like baccarat and craps, and in return, the tribes broadly supported Bill 2772, allowing professional sports teams and tribes offer mobile sports betting on bookings, as well as books at gyms.

“(Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe) was not involved in negotiations for the amended 2021 pact, which was presented to (the tribe) by the state as a non-negotiable ‘take it or leave it’ proposal,” the lawsuit said, adding that rural tribes “have been excluded from meaningful negotiations.”

The governor’s office declined to comment on the lawsuit or the claim that Ducey did not negotiate with rural tribes over the agreements.

State Senator TJ Shope, R-Coolidge, who sponsored the legislation, championed the law as fair and just.

“The timing of these challenges, at the dawn of selection rather than during the legislative session or when the bill is enacted, is tantamount to the end of this qualification-based award process at the Games Ministry,” Shope said in a prepared statement. Friday.

“I expect any legal challenges to be quickly dismissed so that the economic opportunities that are already occurring as a result of the Tribal-State Gaming Compact Amendment can continue to materialize.”

The lawsuit asks the court to prevent the Department of Gaming from issuing sports betting licenses and allowing sports betting.

Sports betting is on the rise for now despite the lawsuit, with the department issuing licenses on Friday. Mobile sports betting is allowed to start creating player accounts and marketing in Arizona on Saturday.

The lawsuit argues that the authorization of off-reserve sports betting “will result in direct, substantial and uncertain harm to (the tribe) by eliminating the exclusivity it has under its existing 2003 Pact and reducing the critical revenues received from it. exclusive to provide the necessary tribal government programs, social programs, clean water, education and other valuable resources for…

An emergency hearing was scheduled for September 3, just six days before brands like DraftKings and FanDuel planned to take bets for the NFL season opener.

Ducey and Ted Vogt, who the governor has appointed to head the gaming department, are named as the defendants in the case.

A spokesperson for the Department of Games said on Friday that there would be no comment on the litigation.

Follows a violation of Proposition 202

The tribe’s complaint says the sports betting legislation is unconstitutional because it violates tribal gambling laws that voters approved in 2002 with Proposition 202.

He cites the state’s Voter Protection Act, which states that the Arizona legislature cannot change an election initiative unless it contributes to the initiative’s purpose.

“The primary objective of Proposition 202 was to grant the exclusive right to Arizona-based Indian tribes to engage in gambling activities on Indian lands for the essential purpose of providing employment and income to fund operations and tribal government programs, ”the complaint says.

“The purpose and / or effect of HB 2772, on the other hand, is to eliminate the exclusivity of gambling activities expressly granted to the Arizona-based Indian tribes.”

A second claim in the lawsuit says the law is unconstitutional because the legislature is required to “enact laws that apply equally to all individuals who might benefit from the legislature’s attempt to remedy a particular evil.”

The lawsuit says sports betting laws do not equally benefit tribes and sports teams. The law only created 10 mobile sports betting licenses for the state’s 22 tribes and another 10 for professional sports groups, which is enough for every professional Arizona team.

Tribes had to pay the same non-refundable application fee of $ 100,000 for a license when they had less than a 50% chance of winning a license, while professional teams were almost guaranteed to get one, according to the lawsuit.

The Department of Gaming announced Friday which tribe has obtained the 10 licenses. And only eight non-tribal sports teams / venues received licenses out of the 10 available.

Tribes were also required to make new “one-sided” deals with the state to apply for a sports betting license, while sports teams were not, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also says House Bill 2772 did not meet the criteria for passage as an emergency measure.

A fourth claim says that the law violates the equal protection clause of the state constitution.

“If a law discriminates between individuals on the basis of a suspect category, it is also subject to scrutiny and (can) be upheld only if it is necessary to promote a compelling state interest,” said the lawsuit. “HB 2772 at first glance and in its plain language distinguishes between race and origin, namely between sports franchise owners and Indian tribes, which is a suspect class. “

The racecourse is also filing a complaint

A second lawsuit filed Thursday also aims to curb sports betting.

The group that owns Turf Paradise, a horseback riding track on Bell Road in Phoenix, also sued the Department of Gaming and Vogt because the track was denied a mobile sports betting license.

The lawsuit said the track had established itself as a professional sports venue, but the department rejected the application because the facility did not meet the definition of a professional sport or sports facility.

The racetrack is appealing this decision through the Department of Gaming, but the lawsuit said the process would take too long, so the racetrack is seeking an injunction to prevent the state from moving forward with it. sports betting until its appeal and / or dispute is over.

This complaint indicates that the department’s decision that the track does not qualify for a sports betting license is “wrong” and that whether other sports bets are allowed to start registering customers and taking bets as planned. on September 9, the track will be at a disadvantage compared to the competition. .

This case also has an emergency hearing scheduled for September 3.

License winners announced on Friday

Here are the entities that the Department of Gaming says have been granted sports betting licenses, and the partners that these entities have declared will manage their mobile sports betting (if named):

Native American tribes

  • Fort Mojave Indian Tribe (SuperBook Sports)
  • Navajo Nation
  • Fort Yuma Quechan Indian Tribe (Kindred Group / Unibet)
  • Tonto Apache Tribe (TwinSpires / Churchill Downs)
  • Tohono O’odham Nation
  • Hualapai Tribe (Gold Nugget)
  • Ak-Chin Indian Community (Fubo Gaming Inc.)
  • South San Juan Paiute Tribe (Digital Game)
  • Apache Tribe of San Carlos (WynnBET)
  • Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation (Betfred Sports)

Professional sports teams

  • Arizona Cardinals (BetMGM)
  • Arizona Diamondbacks (Caesars Entertainment)
  • Phoenix Suns (FanDuel Group)
  • Arizona Coyotes
  • Phoenix Mercury (Ballys Corp.)
  • TPC Scottsdale (DraftKings Inc.)
  • Phoenix Speedway (Penn National’s Barstool Sportsbook)
  • Arizona Rattlers (Rush Street Interactive)

Join reporter Ryan Randazzo To Ryan.randazzo@ arizonarepublic.com or 602-444-4331. Follow him on twitter @UtilityReporter.

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