Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe Challenges Arizona’s Sports Gambling

As Arizona draws closer to an official launch of its sports gambling industry on September 9, not everyone is happy with the arrangement. In fact, the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe, operating the Bucky’s and Yavapai casinos in Prescott, is one to put up a legal fight against the current arrangement that is soon to mandate sports gambling laws in the state.

According to a lawsuit filed by the tribe, Gov. Doug Ducey has not reached out to Yavapai-Prescott representatives, effectively leaving them out of the negotiations. The lawsuit stipulates that the governor’s office did not make any attempt to communicate and rather posed an ultimatum, which the complaint describes as a “take it or leave it” proposition.

No meaningful negotiations could be achieved. As a result, the tribe explained. Earlier this year, the state sought support for House Bill 2772, the draft law that is now set to regulate sports betting in the industry. Essentially, the law allows for the expansion of off-reservation sports gambling.

The Tribes Have a Just Cause and Lawmakers Know It 

The upside to tribes is that they can expand their own product offerings, featuring new table games, including craps and baccarat, but also launching mobile gambling products. While the governor has failed to muster a response, Sen. T.J. Shope, who supported the legalization, argued that Yavapai-Prescott’s position was just, but he believed that it would be dismissed.

The lawsuit further comments on the possible damages that the tribal community would sustain as a result of the renegotiated compact. Critical revenue would leave the tribe’s control leading to a shortage for “tribal government programs, social programs, clean water, education, and other valuable resources.”

An emergency hearing is due to be held on September 3 even though numerous brands are already setting up shop and have obtained permits, including Golden Nugget, William Hill, FanDuel, Bally’s, DraftKings, Penn National, Rush Street Interactive, and others.

Competition in Arizona is heating up between individual sportsbooks, and the tribe’s claim seems unlikely to block a full-scale launch. Arizona wants to quickly cash in on the upcoming NFL season, which is one of the biggest sports events in the United States and promises a good windfall with it.

Not All Parties Benefit Equally, the Lawsuit Claims 

The complaint cites Proposition 202 as its lifeline, hoping to upturn developments by sticking to it. The complaint details the power vested into the tribes by the aforementioned legal prerequisite as such: “The primary purpose of Proposition 202 was to grant the exclusive right to Arizona-based Indian tribes to engage in gaming activities on Indian lands for the critical purpose of providing jobs and revenue to fund tribal government operations and programs.”

Furthermore, the tribe claims that the current sports betting legislation would not benefit all stakeholders equally in the industry, citing sports franchises and tribes. For example, only ten mobile licenses have been offered to the state’s 22 tribes, with the other ten licenses going to sports teams. 

The Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe does make a fair point, but whether it would stand up to legal scrutiny remains to be seen. It would be almost impossible to halt Arizona’s momentum towards regulated sports betting, but a solution must be found all the same. 

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