At a Labor Day hearing in Arizona’s Maricopa County Superior Court regarding a sports betting lawsuit filed by the Yavapai-Prescott Tribe, Judge James Smith rejected the tribe’s claim that the state’s new wagering law was unconstitutional.
In a rare holiday court hearing on Monday, Judge Smith listened to arguments from lawyers of the tribe and the lawsuit’s defendants, Governor Doug Ducey and Arizona Department of Gaming (ADG) Director Ted Vogt, and then filed his position later that night denying the tribe’s request.
This means that Thursday’s planned launch of legal sports betting in the Grand Canyon State can go on as planned, giving Arizona bettors a chance to place wagers on the NFL regular season which starts on that same day.
Despite the possibility of an appeal still looming, Arizona lawmakers were pleased with the outcome, as State Representative Jeff Weninger told the press:
I’m very excited with the judge’s decision. We’re going forward it looks like on Thursday… It’s a great night.
Not so great for the Yavapai-Prescott Tribe, whose failed argument against the sports betting law was two-fold.
The attorney for the tribe, Nicole Simmons, argued that the way Arizona lawmakers enacted the state’s sports betting law was unconstitutional and therefore the upcoming sports betting launch should be stalled.
According to Simmons, the tribe feels the law violates the Voter Protection Act that is in place which states that before non-tribal gambling operations can be allowed, voters must be able to weigh in and they did not.
We understand that gaming may change lawfully, but it has to be lawful. Change the gaming, but you have to put it out for voter approval.
The tribe also argued that the sports betting law is unfair to the tribes since it allows only ten licenses to be awarded to the 22 total tribes while it gives up to ten pro sports teams or events the same number of potential licenses despite there only being eight such entities in the state.
The Judge, however, did not agree with either of these arguments and ruled quickly against them that same night, opening the way to a possible appeal.
In his 12-page ruling, Judge Smith also wrote that the tribe could appeal his decision with the ADG and return to the court if it remains dissatisfied with the results of the hearing, and that process is expected to begin as soon as this week.
However, given the judge’s speedy decision and decisive wording in this matter, an appeal might not be enough to stop Arizona’s legal sports betting launch on Thursday.
Good news for industry experts and Arizona residents, who could all benefit from this new enterprise which is expected to bring in total annual sports betting revenue of $15.2 million by 2024.
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