How Lawsuits Could Impact Sports Betting Rollout in Arizona
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A pair of lawsuits filed in Maricopa County Superior Court could hinder the rollout of sports betting in Arizona.
The lawsuits, which were separately filed by Turf Paradise Racing and the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe, seek to force the Arizona Department of Gaming (ADG) to alter its planned launch date of Sept. 9 for sports betting sites in the state.
The ADG issued 18 licenses on Friday, a day after the lawsuits were filed. The Yavapai-Prescott tribe did not received a license nor did the horse racetrack.
Turf Paradise vs. ADG
The Turf Paradise Racing vs. the Arizona Department of Gaming and department Director Ted Vogt case revolves around whether the department properly issued licenses to interested sportsbook applicants.
The Phoenix-based horse racetrack argued that the department’s event wagering standards — which were limited to those that owned an Arizona professional sports team or franchise or operated a sports facility that hosts an annual tournament on the PGA Tour or a NASCAR event.
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Turf Paradise Racing’s lawsuit argued that its racing is a “professional sport,” as defined by the act, and that Turf Paradise itself is a professional sports venue, which means it should have been approved for an operator’s license.
The raceway’s lawsuit asks the court to grant a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, until the company’s license appeal, including any administrative appeal and judicial review, is completed.
Turf Paradise Racing is also asking the court to reverse the department’s decision to deny its event wagering operator’s license application, saying it meets the standards given for an owner of an Arizona professional sports franchise.
The operator also asks the court to assess the department any attorney’s fees, damages and fees associated with the licensing process, in addition to other relief at the judge’s discretion.
The Turf Paradise emergency injunction hearing is scheduled to be heard at 3 p.m. Friday.
Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe vs. Gov. Doug Ducey & Ted Vogt
The second lawsuit in Maricopa County Superior Court is one filed by the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe against Gov. Doug Ducey and ADG Director Ted Vogt.
The suit seeks to overturn Arizona House Bill 2772, which allowed operators to apply for one of 20 licenses to offer sports betting and daily fantasy sports.
The tribe’s lawsuit grounds its filing in the state’s voter-approved Proposition 202, known as the Indian Gaming Preservation and Self Reliance Act, which allowed Arizona tribes to operate gaming facilities to generate funds that would go toward education, housing, health care, clean water and other basic services on reservation land.
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The Yavapai-Prescott suit said that tribes are at a disadvantage under the new compact, as they must pay the same non-refundable licensing fee ($100,000) as professional sports franchises, but with a much lower chance of obtaining a license.
That’s because the 2021 compact includes 10 license allocations for Arizona professional sports teams and tribes.
The suit says that number is unfair, as there are eight professional sports franchises in the state, by the department’s definition, in comparison to at least 21 tribes.
“A sports franchise owner has a 100% likelihood of receiving a license, if qualified, whereas an Indian tribe has less than 50% chance of obtaining a license,” the tribe’s lawsuit reads.
The Yavapai-Prescott lawsuit seeks to have the court rule that HB2772 is unconstitutional, as it conflicts with and doesn’t advance the purpose of Proposition 202.
The tribe also asks that the judge award them attorney’s fees and costs and other relief as it deems fit.
The emergency hearing in the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe’s case is scheduled for 2 p.m. Friday.
Impact on Rollout of Sports Betting
The two lawsuits could delay the rollout of sports betting in Arizona, as it’s unclear whether the superior court will rule on both measures before the Sept. 9 start date.
It’s possible that judges from the court could grant the temporary injunction request filed by one or both litigants, which would delay rollout until a resolution is reached in the cases.
We’ll know more once the emergency hearings conclude on Friday afternoon, six days before the planned launch date for sports betting in Arizona.
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