Last evening, a judge rejected the legal action seeking to block a new piece of law aimed at allowing sports betting to be offered by professional sports teams in Arizona. The ruling will make it possible for the planned major expansion of the state’s gambling industry to begin later this week.
Judge James Smith from the Maricopa County Superior Court refused to issue the injunction that has been sought to bar sports betting from start being offered in the state as of September 9th, as initially planned. Judge Smith specifically rejected the arguments that the piece of legislation called HB 2772, which was enacted earlier in 2021, is in breach of the Voter Protection Act.
The lawsuit was filed by the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe at the end of August as an attempt to block the law that allows professional sports teams in Arizona to receive operating licenses allowing them to run sports betting.
The Native American Nation argued that the piece of legislation breached the Voter Protection Act of the state by making an illegal amendment to the 2002 voter initiative under which tribal gambling was allowed in Arizona. The controversial amendment allowed non-tribal groups to offer gambling services without getting the approval of local voters first. Under the provisions of Proposition 202, gambling was restricted outside tribal reservation lands.
The Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe argued that the piece of sports betting legislation is unfair because it allows professional sports teams to accept sports bets both online or at or near their stadiums, while only tribes that own casinos are permitted to run sports betting services in the state.
Sports Betting Law Does Not Violate Yavapai-Prescott’s Exclusivity Rights, Judge Says
In his decision, announced late on Monday evening, Judge Smith explained that nothing in the proposition hints at limiting gambling to certain machines and table games available at tribal casinos on a permanent basis.
In its legal action, the tribe claims that allowing off-reservation sports betting services in the state will see a decline in the number of gamblers who would normally visit two tribal casinos in Prescott, as it would violate the tribes’ exclusive rights to offer gambling services. Furthermore, the tribes argued that the fact it would be impossible for them to get an online sports betting license could seriously hurt their future revenue.
The judge, however, noted there was a clause, according to which a tribe is free to operate as many gambling devices as it wants in case its gaming exclusivity right is breached by the state. Currently, Arizona’s Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe has a limit of 936 gaming devices. Apart from that, the clause would also allow the Native American nation to operate as many types of table games as it is willing to, not to mention it would significantly reduce the amount of revenue that the tribe has to share with the state of Arizona.
As mentioned above, as of September 9th, the tribes that sign new gambling agreements with the state, as well as various sports franchise groups would be able to start offering sports betting services to local customers under the provisions of HB 2772. The bets can deal not only with the outcome of various sports games, as Arizona customers will be able to place specific “prop bets” on certain parts of the game.