Arizona Court Hearing To Determine Sports Betting Legality

By Jill Ryan
Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services
Published: Monday, September 6, 2021 - 9:47am
Audio icon Download mp3 (793.21 KB)

New sports betting laws are due to go into effect on Thursday in Arizona, but not if the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe has its say.

A court hearing Monday, will decide whether to throw out a legal bid that could stop or at least delay the start of legal sports betting. 

The state had negotiated a deal with most of Arizona’s Native American  tribes over the past five years. But the Yavapai-Prescott are seeking a legal intervention saying allowing people to wager on professional and college sports violates a 2002 voter-approved initiative, Proposition 202, that limits gambling to reservations.  They were the only tribe in the state that opted out of earlier negotiations. 

Attorney Luis Ochoa who represents the tribe says the Voter Protection Act of the Arizona Constitution precludes lawmakers from altering what voters have approved unless it "furthers the purpose'' of the original law. And Ochoa said this new gaming compact does not do that because it eliminates what he contends is the exclusive right of tribes to conduct certain forms of gaming.

"It is directly repugnant to and inconsistent with the intent of Proposition 202,'' he wrote.

Attorney Heidi McNeil Staudenmaier, representing the governor, disagrees. She said the legislation that paved the way for the sports gaming does further the purpose of Proposition 202 because it allows the tribe and the state to share in gaming revenues while still limiting the scope of gaming in Arizona.

"Without this action, Indian tribes in Arizona face the risk that tribal casinos could be shut down, and plans to share Indian gaming revenues with the state and to create opportunities for non-gaming tribes to benefit from Indian gaming will go unrealized,'' she said, quoting from the legislation.

Staudenmaier also says the word "exclusive'' does not appear anywhere in Proposition 202. She claims that Proposition 202 always anticipated the possibility that the state would decide to offer new forms of off-reservation gaming.

BusinessPoliticsFronteras Native American Affairs