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What Labor Day Hearing Means for Sports Betting in Arizona

Christopher Boan for Bookies.com

Christopher Boan  | 3 mins

What Labor Day Hearing Means for Sports Betting in Arizona

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The start of sports betting in Arizona could hinge on a preliminary injunction hearing in Maricopa County Superior Court on Labor Day morning.

The court will hear a lawsuit, filed by the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe, seeking to overturn the state’s House Bill 2772, which legalized sports betting at off-reservation sites.

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Arizona online sportsbooks have been planning to launch on Sept. 9, which would allow them to be operational for NFL betting. The first game is that night between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Dallas Cowboys.

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Importance of Quick Turnaround

Derrick Beetso, who serves as the director of the College of Law Indian Gaming and Self Governance at Arizona State University, told Bookies.com that Judge James Smith’s decision to hold a hearing on a holiday is not surprising, given the quick turnaround time associated with the case.

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"I'm not surprised that the judge decided on a Monday morning hearing on Labor Day,” Beetso said in an email Friday morning. “The court seems to be making best efforts to expedite the process because everyone is very much aware that sports betting is scheduled to go live on September 9, and the parties all understand the timing issues and likely want any resolution expedited as well.”

RELATED: Q&A with Arizona State Indian Gaming Law Expert Derrick Beetso

Smith told lawyers for the co-defendants, the Arizona Department of Gaming and Arizona Governor’s Office, as well as tribal lawyers, that a big reason for an expedited hearing stemmed from the likelihood of an appeal, regardless of his decision, which will be rendered Monday night.

“My goal is to, if at all possible, get something out to you Monday night so that you'll know what the ruling is,” Smith said on Thursday during the hearing. “And then you can move on to the appellate level."

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Appeals Going Forward

Beetso said that Smith’s acknowledgment about the appeal is important, as promptness means the state could be able to roll out its plans without delay.

“The judge did acknowledge an appeal is expected from his decision, which further complicates the anticipated timing for sports betting in Arizona,” Beetso said. “If the judge decides in the tribe's favor, then conceivably the parties go into any appeals process with an injunction in place, and sports betting is delayed until the court proceedings are exhausted, and the issue is resolved.

“If the tribe's lawsuit is unsuccessful, then the timing of when an appeal is heard becomes very critical.”

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Importance of Timing

Beetso said the element of timing is of extra importance in the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe case, as the next steps could derail the state’s sports betting blueprint.

The ability to get an appeal heard by 12:01 a.m. local time Thursday, which is when sports betting sites go live in Arizona, could create a headache for all involved, Beetso added.

“In other words, if Sept. 9 comes with no injunction in place, or an agreement to otherwise delay the start of sports betting, then it gets harder to imagine how they put the toothpaste back in the tube if the tribe is eventually successful on appeal," Beetso said.

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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.
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