A potential injunction may put next week’s launch of Arizona sports betting at risk, as an Arizona judge will make a determination on the Yavapai Prescott Indian Tribe request on Monday, Sept. 6.
The Yavapai Prescott Indian Tribe filed a lawsuit in the Maricopa County Superior Court against Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) and Ted Vogt, director of the Arizona Department of Gaming, and are seeking an injunction to delay Arizona’s sports betting launch. The lawsuit claims that Arizona’s sports betting bill is unconstitutional because it violates the state’s Voter Protection Act.
Will Arizona Sports Betting Be Delayed?
The Arizona Department of Gaming recently awarded its first 20 sports betting licenses to 10 professional sports organizations and 10 Arizona tribes. The first bets can be taken at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 9, the opening day of the NFL season.
However, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge James Smith will determine on Monday if an injunction is warranted, which would delay the launch of Arizona sports betting until the merits of the lawsuit can be heard. The interested parties will have one-hour total to make their case – 30 minutes each – and a decision is expected Monday night, Smith said.
Smith said he expects whichever party he rules against will likely want to appeal his decision.
The Voter Protection Act, at the center of this lawsuit, declares the “legislature shall not have the power to amend an initiative measure approved by a majority of the votes cast thereon, or to amend a referendum measure decided by a majority of votes cast thereon, unless the amending legislation furthers the purposes of such measure.”
Is Arizona Sports Betting Commercial Gaming Expansion?
The plaintiff’s believe the approval of the sports betting bill subverts the protections afforded by the voter approved Proposition 202. The lawsuit seeks to declare the actions of the state and its governor in approving the sports betting bill as undermining Proposition 202’s voter-protected approval. Proposition 202, known as the “Indian Gaming Preservation and Self-Reliance Act,” was approved by state voters in November 2002. The Indian Gaming Preservation and Self-Reliance Act allows Indian tribes to conduct non-mobile gaming activities, such as keno, blackjack and poker, on reservation property.
The lawsuit claims the approval of online sports betting and fantasy sports betting in Arizona outside of tribal lands amounts to commercial gaming expansion, which can only be approved by amending the state constitution through voter approval.
Plaintiffs also claim the lawsuit being enacted as an emergency measure runs afoul of the state’s constitution.