Judge Sides With State in Sports Betting Suit in Arizona

Judge Sides With State in Sports Betting Suit in Arizona

Superior Court Judge James Smith on Monday declined to delay the launch of Arizona sports betting.

Smith issued his ruling after a 69-minute hearing earlier Monday where lawyers for Gov. Doug Ducey, Department of Gaming Director Ted Vogt and the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe presented their arguments in Maricopa County Superior Court. An appeal is likely.

In his ruling released Monday night, Smith wrote that “the Tribe did not show that H.B. 2772 likely violates the Tribe’s rights regarding event wagering as compared to Sports Franchise Owners. The Tribe did not show that public policy favors its requested injunctive relief. IT IS ORDERED denying the Tribe’s Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order and a Preliminary Injunction.”

The lawsuit filed by the tribe last Thursday sought to delay this week's launch of the sports betting market in the state, saying the law was unconstitutional.

Two Arizona tribes that received sports betting licenses from the state said over the weekend they intended to intervene in the preliminary injunction motion. They did not offer testimony Monday.

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During the hearing, Smith questioned both attorneys, but seemed to have more pointed questions for tribe attorney Nicole Simmons. The judge asked what the financial ramifications for the Yavapai-Prescott tribe would be and if they had done an analysis of the possible revenue loss. He also asked why the tribe believed Proposition 202 limited future gaming in Arizona.

Simmons, whose internet cut out during the call and talked mostly by phone, said any change to gambling law “has to be lawful,” and that gambling expansion in the state needed voter approval.

Smith pointed out that Proposition 202 provides a reduced financial obligation from the tribe and gives them the right to engage in other forms of gambling if there is an expansion.

Ducey attorney Anni L. Foster said the tribe was attempting to “turn the clock backward so they can get a do-over,” in regard to the injunction.

The judge did have questions for Foster about licenses given out by the state for NASCAR and PGA Tour events.

Attorney Pat Irvine represented the Vogt, but only spoke for about five minutes after Foster’s presentation.

Clock Ticking Toward Launch

Knowing that the state is trying to launch sports betting this week, the judge held the hearing on a holiday. Smith also realizes that his decision will likely be appealed.

The Yavapai-Prescott tribe was not part of the new gaming compacts and was not licensed for sports betting. It owns two casinos in Prescott north of Phoenix — Bucky’s Casino and the Yavapai Casino.

Arizona sports betting apps have been planning to go live on Thursday (Sept. 9) just after midnight so Arizona NFL betting will be in place for the first game.

Bettors have been able to sign up during early registration that began on Aug. 28 and receive AZ sportsbook promos. On Aug. 27, the ADG approved sports betting licenses for 10 tribes and eight pro franchises or venues.

2 Tribes Side With The State

The Tonto Apache and Quechan Tribes issued a news release over the weekend saying they filed a notice “of intent to intervene in the legal action, and will also pursue a motion to dismiss as needed.” Both were awarded sports betting licenses under the new law and operate casinos in Arizona.

"The truth is that we spent five years in painstaking, good-faith negotiations with the governor and the Department of Gaming to protect our interests and ensure that our amended compact provides the best possible economic benefits for our people," Tonto Apache Chairman Calvin Johnson said in the release. "We sought to engage Yavapai leaders in developing strategies that would benefit small, like-minded tribes like ours, but they declined, saying they would simply sue if they were unhappy with the outcome of negotiations."

Quechan President Jordan Joaquin said “it is very unfortunate to see the Yavapai seek to unravel all this progress after they chose to sit on the sidelines during our compact amendment negotiations."

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Ron Fritz
Managing editor

Ron Fritz is a former editor of BetArizona.com.

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