Decision in Arizona sports betting lawsuit filed by tribe will come down to the wire

By Ryan Randazzo |Arizona Republic

(Disclosure: Rose Law Group represents PGA Tour)

A Maricopa County Superior Court judge said he plans to decide whether to block the planned rollout of sports betting in Arizona, as requested by the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe, just days before it’s set to start.

The tribe sued to stop sports betting, which was passed by the Legislature earlier this year, from starting Sept. 9 as the Department of Gaming anticipates. The tribe claims the legislation is unconstitutional because it is contrary to guardrails voters put on gambling in a 2002 ballot measure.

Judge James Smith scheduled a hearing for Monday, the Labor Day holiday, where the tribe and defendants in the case — the Department of Gaming and Governor’s Office — will present their arguments.

“I’m sure whether I grant or deny the requested injunction, the dissatisfied party is going to appeal, so I’m trying to get this done as soon as I can so you can jump through this hoop and get on to whatever appellate court you want to end up with,” Smith said at an emergency hearing Thursday. 

He said a Monday evening order from his court would allow the losing party to file an appeal Tuesday, two days before the scheduled start date for sports betting.

The Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe, which runs the Bucky’s and Yavapai casinos near Prescott, was one of two tribes that did not sign new gaming compacts with the state earlier this year as part of a negotiation with Gov. Doug Ducey.

The new compacts allowed the tribes to expand their casinos and offer new table games like baccarat and craps, and in exchange, the tribes largely supported House Bill 2772, allowing professional sports teams and tribes to offer mobile sports betting off the reservations, as well as books at sports venues.

In its complaint filed last week, the tribe said the Governor’s Office did not negotiate the new compact with rural tribes, instead, presenting them a “take-it-or-leave-it” deal.

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