Rural Arizona Tribe Files Lawsuit, Calls Sports Betting Bill “Unconstitutional”

Written by: Mike Lukas
Updated October 14, 2022
3 min read
Arizona Tribe Files Lawsuit
  • Last Week, Arizona’s Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe Filed a Sports Betting Lawsuit
  • House Bill 2772 Uses Loophole to Allow Sports Wagers Placed Outside Tribal Land
  • Despite Potential Litigation, Arizona’s September Sports Betting Launch on Schedule

Last Week, Arizona’s Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe Filed a Sports Betting Lawsuit

Late last week, Arizona’s Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe (YPIT) filed a lawsuit claiming that the state’s sports betting legislation, House Bill 2772, is unconstitutional and breaches gaming laws already established in the Voter Proposition Act 202 that was implemented in 2002.

The YPIT were one of two tribes that never signed off on the new gaming agreements that Governor Doug Ducey and the Arizona Gaming Department consented to back in April and now they are arguing that because it technically allows gambling outside of tribal lands it is inherently unconstitutional.

The rural tribe also takes issue with the fact that they were never included in the negotiations that initially took place to create the bill and that it was offered to Arizona tribes as a non-negotiable agreement.

The lawsuit covers multiple complaints that the YPIT has with the bill, including its use of a clever legal loophole that allows for off-reservation gambling.

House Bill 2772 Uses Loophole to Allow Sports Wagers Placed Outside Tribal Land

A major part of the lawsuit is the YPIT’s objection to any gambling allowed outside of tribal land, something that the new sports betting law allows by using a loophole based on the fact that since the servers themselves are located on a reservation, online bets placed anywhere in the state count as being made on tribal lands.

But the YPIT fundamentally disagrees and deems the sports betting legislation unconstitutional, claiming it violates an already established precedent made clear in Voter Proposition Act 202.

According to the lawsuit:

Defendants have violated the Voter Protection Act, the Equal Protection Clause, the prohibition against special laws and impermissible emergency measures pursuant to and under the Arizona Constitution when they enacted House Bill 2772 as an emergency measure and without voter approval.

The tribe argues that the legislation does not warrant “emergency” treatment and is “eliminating YPIT’s gaming exclusivity” and that by allowing powerful sports franchises to compete with Indian tribes, they will lose much of the potential revenue that those activities could generate.

Despite Litigation, AZ’s September Sports Betting Launch on Schedule

Regardless of these major legal objections, the Arizona Department of Gaming has kept moving forward on its quest to launch sports betting in the state in time for pro football as we cover in more detail in The Arizona Department of Gaming Announces 18 of 20 Sports Betting Licenses.

Since Saturday, the operators that were awarded these licenses have been actively recruiting Arizona bettors in preparation for the intended launch day of legal sports betting in the Grand Canyon State, which is set for September 9, the opening day of the 2021 NFL season.

An emergency hearing on the lawsuit has been scheduled for Friday, September 3rd, when these legal issues will be further discussed, but those in favor of legal sports betting in Arizona, including the sponsor of the bill, Senator T.J. Shope, insist the law is “fair and equitable” and expect these legal challenges to be dismissed.

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Mike Lukas

Sports Betting & Gambling Industry Analyst

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Mike Lukas is a retired standup comedian turned freelance writer now living in Dallas, Texas, originally from Cleveland, Ohio. His love for the game of football and all things Cleveland Browns turned Mike into a pro blogger years ago. Now Mike enjoys writing about all thirty-two NFL teams, hoping to help football gamblers gain a slight edge in their pursuit of the perfect wager.
Nationality: American
Education: N/A
Favourite Sportsbook: bet365 Sportsbook
Favourite Casino: Caesars Palace Casino
23 years
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