Arizona Tribe Sues State Over ‘Illegal’ Sports Betting, Official Licensees Out Today

Posted on: August 27, 2021, 09:51h. 

Last updated on: August 27, 2021, 12:14h.

A small Arizona tribe is suing Governor Doug Ducey (R). The tribe argues that Pheonix lawmakers violated the state constitution when they legalized sports betting last April.

arizona sports betting
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, seen in a press photo above, said the tribes were on board with sports betting. But now he’s being sued by one of them. (Image: The Hill)

The Yavapai Prescott Indian Tribe (YPIT) claims the passage of Arizona’s sports betting legislation was a breach of the state’s Voter Protection Act, which deals with laws established via public referenda, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday in Maricopa County Superior Court,

The tribe argues that legalizing sports betting amounted to commercial gambling expansion, which can only be approved by amending the constitution by a public vote. This, in turn, distorts the Arizona Indian Gaming Preservation and Self-Reliance Act. That authorizes agreements between the tribes and the state related to gambling on tribal lands, according to the lawsuit.

The Tribe also claims that the enactment of the law as an emergency measure was also unconstitutional

Sports Teams in on the Act

The bill approved by the legislature has created 20 betting licenses, mobile and land-based, which will be split down the middle between tribal operators and pro sports organizations.

This paves the way for in-stadium betting, and sports teams like the Arizona Cardinals and the Phoenix Suns are already getting in on the act. They are partnering with major online sportsbooks ahead of the anticipated September 9 launch of the market.

The Cardinals have teamed up with BetMGM, which announced yesterday it had been approved for licensing. The Suns have partnered with FanDuel, while the Arizona Diamondbacks are in bed with Caesars.

One of the most interesting tie-ups is the PGA, which has partnered with DraftKings for mobile betting and will offer a retail sportsbook at the TPC Scottsdale golf course.

Some Tribes Will Miss Out

The lawsuit was filed 24 hours before the state gaming regulator is scheduled to publish a list of all successful licensees later today. There’s currently no word on whether YPIT is among them.

Ducey announced in January that he had secured crucial backing from the tribes for sports betting during compact negotiations. But this no longer appears to be entirely the case.

Arizona has 22 federally recognized tribes, 16 of which operate 24 casinos, including  YPIT. The other six have slot-machine rights, but no casinos, so they lease their rights to other tribes that do.

Tribal leaders testified earlier in the year that not all tribes would apply for sports betting licenses. That meant the 16 operators would not be competing for ten licenses. But this didn’t prove to be the case, either.

According to Legal Sports Report, all sixteen applied for licenses, which is likely to leave at least some applicants disgruntled and disillusioned with the process.