Yavapai-Apache Tribe Again Tries to Halt Sports Betting in AZ

Yavapai-Apache Tribe Again Tries to Halt Sports Betting in AZ

Three days after its initial attempt at blocking the rollout of sports betting in Arizona failed, the Yavapai-Apache Indian Tribe has filed an amended lawsuit regarding the matter.

The amended lawsuit seeks to have the 2021 gaming compact ruled unconstitutional for several reasons, including that Arizona H.B. 2772, which created the newest compact, was unconstitutional.

The Yavapai-Prescott tribe’s first lawsuit was dismissed by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge James Smith on Labor Day, after Smith ruled that the tribe failed to demonstrate why the bill caused financial hardship to the tribe.

“The Tribe did not show that H.B. 2772 likely violates the Tribe’s rights regarding event wagering as compared to Sports Franchise Owners,” Smith’s order read. “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.”

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The tribe’s initial lawsuit sought to block new Arizona sports betting apps from launching on Sept. 9, though the second iteration seeks to shutter the activity immediately.

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A court Public Information Officer told BetArizona.com that no court date has been set in the case and that it was not known when such a decision would be made.

Here’s what to know about the tribe’s latest lawsuit in the Maricopa County Superior Court system:

What’s the Crux of the Tribe’s Argument?

The Yavapai-Apache tribe’s latest lawsuit is still centered around the same general legal arguments, such as that the legislature’s decision to pass the compact without voter approval violated Arizona’s Voter Protection Act, and that it violated the state’s constitutional prohibition against special laws.

The first argument is centered around the way the bill was passed and the fact that the 2021 gaming compact was an amended version of the original compact, which was passed as Proposition 202.

“The Voter Protection Act prohibits such legislative action with minor exception for ‘technical amendments,’ which are permitted only with a supermajority vote and in furtherance of the purpose of the measure,” the complaint reads.

Tribes Lose Exclusivity in Gaming

The tribe’s complaint goes on to discuss at length how the purpose of Prop. 202 was to grant exclusive right to gaming to tribes in the state, while the 2021 compact stripped such exclusivity by granting professional sports teams the right to offer similar activities off of tribal land.

“H.B. 2772 not only fails to further the purpose of Proposition 202 of granting the exclusive right to Arizona-based Indian tribes to engage in gaming activities classified as Class III gaming under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act on Indian lands, it is directly repugnant to and inconsistent with the intent of Proposition 202,” the complaint reads.

The tribe also argues that the compact violates the state constitution’s prohibition on laws that grant any corporation, association, or individual special or exclusive privileges, referencing the fact that sports teams are directly benefitted through the legislation, at the cost of tribal gaming exclusivity.

Feelings of Mistreatment

Additionally, the complaint mentions that the compact treats the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe differently than others in the state, as it prohibits the former from taking land into trust for the purpose of gaming in the Phoenix area, while allowing others, such as the Tohono O’odham, Ak-Chin and Gila River tribes to do just that.

“Which expands — not limits — gaming in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area,” the complaint reads. “YPIT was not granted any reciprocal right anywhere in the State of Arizona.

“Furthermore, YPIT was treated differently from other tribes when the right to negotiate the terms of the 2021 Amended Compact was contingent upon executing the 2016 Agreement to amend Compact that also discriminated against YPIT.”

The discrimination that the tribe alleges is that the 2016 compact allowed other tribes, such as the ones mentioned above, to expand their gaming facilities in Maricopa and Pinal counties, while not having to give up a reciprocal right to land nearby.

Such a difference is why the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe did not sign the 2021 gaming compact, according to the complaint.

“The rights under H.B. 2772 are granted based [sic] arbitrary geographic lines, and it expands (not limits) gaming in the major Phoenix Area, H.B. 2772’s disparate treatment of YPIT has no rational connection with any legitimate purpose,” the complaint reads.

The complaint never specifies any direct financial damages, only referencing the qualitative effect of not getting the privileges that the 10 tribes and seven sports teams received, in being able to offer new forms of gaming, both on and off tribal land.

Other Claims for Relief Mentioned

The tribe also claims that the state’s newest compact violates Arizona’s Equal Protection Clause, which says that no citizen or corporation other than those municipal in nature should have privileges or immunities not available to others.

Its reasoning rests in the fact that the compact “discriminates between race and origin, namely, between Sports Franchise Owners and Indian tribes, which is a suspect class,” according to the complaint.

The tribe’s argument here rests on the state’s decision to allocate 10 licenses each to tribes and teams, even though the YPIT argue that there are only seven of the latter in Arizona.

That means that three extra licenses exist for teams, while less than half of the 21 federally recognized Indian tribes in Arizona can receive licensure, which is a violation of the clause, according to the tribe’s complaint.

Additionally, the tribe argues that the 2021 compact should be halted until a permanent verdict is rendered, as the tribe does not have, “adequate remedy at law and will be irreparably injured if the licenses called for by H.B. 2772 are issued,” as the complaint says.

Those licenses have been issued, however, with more than 6.1 million sports betting transactions taking place across the state since sports betting launched in Arizona on Thursday, the fourth-highest amount in the country, according to geofencing company, GeoComply.

Sports Betting Already Taking Place

The fact that the proverbial cat has left its bag is why ASU Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law Professor Derrick Beetso said he believes the tribe’s suit is a moot point.

“Since last Thursday, very concrete monetary interests are present for all the sports betting license holders, tribal and non-tribal, not to mention strong interests for the consumers that have paid into and will continue to pay into this system,” Beetso told BetArizona.com in an email.

“At the (Labor Day hearing) for the motion for preliminary injunction, the judge seemed to indicate that the Tribe had not effectively pleaded its injury, noting there were no financial studies or the like that clearly showed what was at stake for the Tribe.”

He said the tribe’s newest lawsuit must clear two legal hurdles, those being the need for restitution and the suit’s standing in the state’s legal system, which will be an arduous standard for its attorneys to meet.

“If this was not amended in the Tribe's amended complaint, then this represents a huge hurdle that must be cleared to establish redressability and ultimately standing in Arizona courts,” Beetso added. “It seems to me, at a minimum, if the Tribe is unable to put some real numbers and data behind their alleged injury, then their amended complaint likely falls short.”



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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