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Arizona Tribe Files Amended Lawsuit To Block Sports Betting

Christopher Boan for Bookies.com

Christopher Boan  | 4 mins

Arizona Tribe Files Amended Lawsuit To Block Sports Betting

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An amended lawsuit seeking to overturn the 2021 gaming compact that led to Arizona sports betting has been filed by the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe.

The amended suit was filed in Maricopa County Superior Court on the day Arizona sports betting launched last week but was not added to the court docket until Tuesday. It came three days after the same court denied the tribe’s temporary restraining order request for several reasons.

Superior Court Judge James Smith ruled on Labor Day that the tribe’s lawsuit failed to demonstrate why Arizona House Bill 2772, which created the updated gaming compact, was unconstitutional. He wrote:

“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 ruling reads. “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.”

So far, no court date has been set to hear the amended lawsuit, according to a public information officer from the Maricopa County Superior Court and the case history.

Arizona sportsbooks and sports betting apps have had a strong start since launching on Sept. 9, the first day of NFL betting. Geolocation security company GeoComply reported that Arizona had the fourth-most transactions (6.1 million) of any state during the weekend.

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What the Tribe is Looking to Achieve

The tribe is seeking to have the 2021 compact thrown out, on the grounds that it violates Proposition 202, which legalized gaming activities on tribal lands in Arizona, among other items.

The original lawsuit also alleged that the updated compact was unconstitutional, as it authorized new methods of gaming, such as sports betting and Keno games, without voter approval.

The amended lawsuit filed by the tribe on behalf of presiding attorney Luis Ochoa argues that the legislation violates the state’s Voter Protection Act, as it did not allow the voting public to weigh in on the expansion of gaming.

“This lawsuit seeks judgment declaring H.B. 2772 is unconstitutional because it violates the State’s Voter protection … the legislature’s power to amend initiative or referendum, and [Arizona’s prohibition of special laws pertaining to granting any corporation, association, or individual any special or exclusive privileges, immunities, or franchises] as an invalid and prohibited special law.

“And further declaring that the actions of the State of Arizona and its Governor in undermining Proposition 202’s voter-protected approval and authorization of gaming exclusivity within the State and defining the scope and forms of gambling, for Arizona’s Indian tribes.”

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Impact of Amended Suit in Arizona

The tribe’s newest suit faces an uphill battle, according to Derrick Beetso, Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law professor.

Beetso, who specializes in tribal law, said the tribe’s newest suit will struggle to gain traction, especially after Smith failed to grant a preliminary injunction in the first place.

“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 Bookies.com in an email.

“At the 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.”

Beetso added that 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.

“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.”

About the Author

Christopher Boan for Bookies.com
Christopher Boan
Christopher Boan has covered sports and sports betting in Arizona for more than seven years, with stops at ArizonaSports.com, Tucson Weekly and Green Valley News.