A judge on Monday evening refused to block Arizona’s new law to allow sports gambling to be run by professional sports teams, reports Associated Press. The decision will allow the major gambling expansion to start as planned, on Thursday.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge James Smith ruled in favor of the law after the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe requested the implementation of the new legislation, which enables professional sports teams to get licenses to launch sports gambling, to be halted and get declared unconstitutional.
According to the tribe, the law violates the state’s Voter Protection Act by illegally amending the 2002 voter initiative that authorized tribal gambling in the state by allowing non-tribal groups to operate without asking voters to weigh in, reports the news agency. Proposition 202 restricted gambling outside tribal reservations.
According to Smith, Proposition 202 regulates the types of gambling allowed at tribal casinos, but not other kinds of wagering, including sports betting.
The judge also rejected other arguments, such as that the law is unfair as it allows 10 licenses for professional teams to run sports betting at or near their stadiums and online, while allocating only 10 for tribes to run online sports betting operations. All tribal casinos can run sportsbooks.
The Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe finds this problematic, as there are only nine qualifying teams or events while there are more than twice the number of tribes competing for licenses. Moreover, they must pay a nonrefundable $100,000 application fee.
“Plaintiff did not cite language from the proposition indicating that Arizona would never expand gambling to different activities or locations,” wrote Smith. “What is more, the proposition contemplated gambling expansions.”
The judge has said in his ruling that license allocation may be worth exploring, as the lawsuit proceeds, although noted that it is far below what is needed to issue an injunction. Moreover, state attorneys consider the tribe has waited too long to seek a restraining order to prevent sports betting from launching: the legislation and updated tribal gaming compacts, which most of Arizona’s tribes signed, were finished in April.
The expanded tribal gaming compacts saw tribes gaining new exclusive gambling offerings, such as the possibility to add games like Baccarat and craps to existing offerings. These compacts were the result of extended negotiations between the state and tribal leaders. The Yavapai-Prescott tribe did not sign the compact.
“Today’s ruling is not just a win in court, but a win for Arizona,” said C.J. Karamargin, spokesman for Gov. Doug Ducey, who signed the bill into law in April. “A tremendous amount of work by a diverse group of stakeholders has gone into implementing HB2772 and the amended tribal-state gaming compacts.” Karamargin believes the ruling will now allow the process to continue.
In his ruling, Judge Smith also rejected the argument that sports gambling outside tribal casinos will harm the tribe’s revenue, as the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe says that the law will drive gamblers that would normally go to their two casinos in Prescott out of the venues by losing exclusive rights to run gambling operations.
Sports betting is set to start on September 9, the same day the NFL season begins. Online sportsbook operators are already signing up consumers in Arizona and will be ready to take bets at midnight that day.