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Game on: Judge refuses to block new Arizona sports betting law

Although legalized sports gambling is set to begin Thursday in Arizona, not everyone is happy.

A Maricopa County Superior Court judge ruled Monday against a Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe request to block an Arizona law allowing sports gambling. Turf Paradise race track filed a similar lawsuit but it was set aside last week.

“Monday’s ruling is not just a win in court, but a win for Arizona, Ducey spokesman C.J. Karamargin said. “A tremendous amount of work has gone into implementing HB2772 and the amended tribal-state gaming compacts. This ruling means that work will be allowed to continue.”

The Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe attempted to sue the Department of Gaming and Gov. Doug Ducey, believing the new sports betting laws going into place are a violation of both the 1998 Voter Protection Act and Proposition 202.

The 1998 Voter Protection Act requires that the Arizona State Legislature must have a public vote before making any changes to issues on the ballot that were previously voter approved.

Proposition 202 was a bill passed in 2002 that allows for the continuation of regulated gambling on Indian lands as long as the tribe shares 1% to 8% of the revenue brought in with the state for statewide public services.

The Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe argued that when Proposition 202 was approved, it only applied to certain types of gambling, and sports betting was not one of those. Therefore, by including sports gambling, it is a violation of the 1998 Voter Protection Act.

The tribe also argued that the approval of sports gambling would have a negative effect on the businesses of the tribe.

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Early on Labor Day, Judge James Smith oversaw the trial and came to his verdict quickly because of the closeness of the start date and the possibility of an appeal.

“The case is not necessarily over as the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe will have the ability to appeal the decision,” said Maxwell Hartgraves, the Public Information Officer for the Department of Gaming. “To that end, the Department cannot comment on this ongoing litigation.”

The Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe was not the only group opposed to the new sports betting laws. Only 20 sports gambling licenses were awarded, with 10 going to selected tribes and 10 going to professional sports franchises.

The professional sports franchises also included specific venues like TPC Scottsdale, the site of the Waste Management Open. Turf Paradise was also not selected to receive a license.

“Our case is scheduled to go to court this Friday, Sept. 3. Until that proceeding is adjudicated, we will have no further comment,” Vince Francia, the general manager at Turf Paradise, said last week.

However, the track’s lawsuit ended up being set aside before the decision was made against the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe.

With sports betting set to begin Thursday, the Department of Gaming argued that if the start date was delayed, the state would lose millions of dollars.

Sports betting will be available online all over the state of Arizona in time for the first NFL game of the season: the Dallas Cowboys against the defending Super Bowl champions Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

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Jake Goodrick/Cronkite News

Not everyone is thrilled with the start of legalized sports betting in Arizona. Turf Paradise racetrack was not one of the 20 organizations issued a license.