Judge refuses to block new Arizona sports betting law

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PHOENIX – A judge refused on Monday night to block a new Arizona law allowing sports betting to be managed by professional sports teams in a decision that will allow the game’s major expansion to begin as scheduled later this week.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge James Smith refused to issue an injunction banning sports betting from Thursday. The decision came just hours after he held an unusual Labor Day hearing on the claim filed by a Native American tribe.

The Yavapai-Prescott tribe of India wanted the law, which allows professional sports teams to obtain licenses to operate games of chance, declared unconstitutional. They argued that he violated the state’s Voter Protection Act by illegally modifying the 2002 Voter Initiative which allowed tribal gambling in Arizona by allowing non-tribal groups to have gambling operations without ask voters to weigh. Proposition 202 restricted gambling outside of tribal reservations.

But Smith wrote that Proposition 202 regulated the types of games allowed in tribal casinos, not other types of betting.

“The plaintiff did not cite the wording of the proposal indicating that Arizona would never expand gambling to different activities or locations,” Smith wrote. “In addition, the proposal envisioned game expansions.”

The judge also rejected several other arguments put forward by the tribe asking for the sports betting law to be declared unconstitutional.

“Today’s decision is not just a victory in the courts, but a victory for Arizona,” said CJ Karamargin, spokesman for Gov. Doug Ducey, who enacted Bill 2772 in April. “A tremendous amount of work from a diverse group of stakeholders has gone into the implementation of HB2772 and the Amended Gaming Agreements between Tribal States. This decision means that work will be allowed to continue.

The tribe also argued that the law passed by the legislature and signed by the Republican governor is unfair because it allows 10 licenses for professional teams to organize sports betting in or near their stadiums and online, while it assigns only 10 to tribes to manage online sports betting operations. . All tribes with casinos can manage sports betting.

This has harmed the tribes as there are only nine qualifying teams or events such as professional golf tournaments while there are more than double the tribes competing for licenses, and all of them have to pay an application fee. repayable of $ 100,000.

Smith’s ruling said it might be worth exploring as the trial progresses, but falls far short of what’s needed to issue an injunction.

Lawyers for the state said the tribe’s interpretation of the law was flawed and that it had also waited too long to seek a restraining order preventing sports betting from starting.

Smith agreed that the tribe’s delay in filing the complaint weighed on him, noting that the legislation was signed in April, as were the updated tribal gambling agreements that most of Arizona’s 22 tribes have. signed.

“The tribe’s delay complaint disproves the notion of irreparable harm,” Smith wrote.

And he rejected the tribe’s “speculative” argument that allowing sports betting outside tribal casinos would hurt the tribe’s income. These factors have helped tip the balance of hardship judges weigh at the preliminary injunction stage of a trial far in favor of the state, he wrote.

The tribe argues that allowing off-reservation sports betting will siphon off players who would normally visit their two casinos in Prescott, about 100 miles north of Phoenix, by removing the tribes’ exclusive rights to manage gambling operations. mainly argued that its inability to obtain an online sports gaming license could reduce its future earnings.

The professional teams, including all of the major sports franchises, NASCAR and PGA events that have obtained state licenses, are all based in the Phoenix metro area. They will organize physical sports betting operations in or near or near their stadiums, but may also take online betting.

In concert with the new law, Ducey and the vast majority of Arizona’s 22 tribes – but not the Yavapai-Prescott tribe – signed new tribal gaming agreements that significantly expand the tribes’ exclusive gaming offerings. Tribal casinos can now offer games such as baccarat and craps to their existing slots, blackjack and poker offerings. Ten tribes have obtained sports betting licenses that allow them to publish sports books online.

The new covenants were the result of five years of negotiations between the governor’s office and tribal leaders across the state.


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