Arizona Sports Betting Lawsuit by Yavapai Prescott Tribe Grinds Toward Settlement

Arizona Sports Betting Lawsuit by Yavapai Prescott Tribe Grinds Toward Settlement
By Christopher Boan
Fact Checked by Michael Peters

It’s been 276 days since a Maricopa County Superior Court Judge dismissed the Yavapai Prescott Indian Tribe’s original lawsuit over the 2021 Gaming Compact that legalized Arizona sports betting.

In that eight-month interim, lawyers for the tribe, along with lawyers for Gov. Doug Ducey and Arizona Department of Gaming Director Ted Vogt, have tried to hammer out a settlement.

Between Labor Day and now, there’s been no fewer than five extensions issued, allowing all sides to ensure an amendment to the state’s gaming compact that will hold up to federal regulations.

The latest stay, which was requested and granted in the county court system Thursday, gives litigants until July 26 to figure out the determination of the Department of the Interior, which has until July 22 to rule on the provisional compact the YPIT, Governor’s Office, and ADG have agreed upon.

Until then, the Arizona betting apps lawsuit will remain on the court’s inactive calendar, according to the status report.

“The Parties believe it is in the interest of justice and judicial economy to stay this case until and including July 22, 2022, to allow sufficient time to complete the federal review and approval process of the Compact Amendments and YPIT Gaming Compact,” the status update reads. “The Parties believe the requested stay is necessary and reasonable in the contest of this case, particularly given the complexity of the issues presented and the necessary involvement of the U.S. Department of the Interior. The proposed stay should allow the Parties the additional time needed to finalize a resolution of the pending litigation.”

How We Got to This Point

This litigation was brought by the YPIT in late August 2021. The suit argued Arizona House Bill 2772, which legalized sports betting in the state, violated the state’s Voter Protection Act and Proposition 202, which legalized gaming on Indian land.

The initial complaint, filed in late August, was dismissed on Labor Day by Judge James Smith, who said in his ruling the YPIT did not show why the legal action was necessary.

The Tribe filed an amended complaint in late September. The Governor’s legal team filed a motion to dismiss in mid-October, arguing the Tribe waited too long to file its complaint, and its actions could have dire consequences for the 10 Arizona tribes and eight sports teams that had received sports betting licenses.

The two sides have been working on a settlement since November. In January, the sides agreed to an updated timeline for the case as they closed in on a settlement.

What Thursday’s Update Means for the Lawsuit

Derrick Beetso, who serves as director of Arizona State University’s College of Law Indian Gaming and Self Governance Programs, in an email to BetArizona.com, said Thursday’s status update shows how close the sides are to a resolution.

“The parties seem confident that this issue is resolved between them, and they indicate in this status report and motion to stay proceedings that they have delivered fully executed amendments to 20 tribal compacts, as well as a newly amended compact for the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe, to the Secretary of the Interior for her approval and publication in the Federal Register — a requirement under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act,” Beetso said. “Pursuant to [Indian Gaming Regulatory Act], the Secretary's review period for these documents’ tolls July 11. As a result, the parties asked the Court to stay this litigation and keep it on the court's inactive calendar until July 22. The parties have committed to submit a joint filing seeking to dismiss the litigation on or before July 22.

“While the parties fully expect this to be resolved by July 22, the Secretary of the Interior still maintains the discretion to approve or disapprove the submitted documents. Obviously, the parties' proposed timelines would not be met if the Secretary were to reject the amendments to the tribal compacts, or the amended compact for the Yavapai-Prescott Indian tribe.” 

BetArizona.com reached out to lawyers representing the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe, as well as Gov. Ducey and Director Vogt, but did not receive responses from them.

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Christopher Boan is the lead writer at BetArizona.com after covering sports and sports betting in Arizona for more than seven years, including stops at ArizonaSports.com, the Tucson Weekly and the Green Valley News.

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