An Arizona judge denied a request for an injunction Monday night (September 6) that would have impeded the planned launch of the state’s sports betting program this week.
The Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe filed suit seeking to block the launch, arguing the law passed earlier this year to legalize the activity was unconstitutional because it allowed gambling expansion without voter input.
Maricopa County judge James Smith ruled Monday that existing state law did not promise tribal exclusivity and prohibit expansion to non-tribal sources.
Smith also agreed with state arguments at a hearing Monday afternoon that the tribe’s case was hampered by a delay in filing the suit until late July, rather than in April when the legislation and updated tribal gaming compacts with most of the state’s Indian gaming tribes were approved.
“Today’s ruling is not just a win in court, but a win for Arizona,” said C.J. Karamargin, spokesman for Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, who was one of the defendants in the suit along with Ted Vogt, director of the Arizona Department of Gaming.
“A tremendous amount of work by a diverse group of stakeholders has gone in to implementing HB 2772 and the amended tribal-state gaming compacts. This ruling means that work will be allowed to continue.”
The hearing was held Monday despite the Labor Day holiday because of Smith’s expectation that whichever side came out on the losing end would launch an immediate appeal, so Thursday’s launch is not yet written on the calendar in permanent ink.
More information on an appeal is expected after the ruling is officially processed by the Superior Court, as staff return from the holiday Tuesday.
The Department of Gaming issued 18 sports-betting licenses on August 27, ten to Indian gaming tribes and eight to professional sports teams and facilities based in the state, many of whom have announced partnerships with different sports-betting operators.