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Arizona tribes fight to block anti-betting lawsuit


The Tonto Apache and Quechan tribes of Arizona are currently seeking to block a lawsuit brought forward by the Yavapai Prescott Indian tribe, to halt the planned launch of sports betting in the state from September 9.

The Tonto Apache tribe, in Payson, operates the Mazatzal Casino, while the Quechan tribe of the Fort Yuma reservation operates the Paradise Casino.

Last week, the Yavapai Prescott Indian tribe asked the Maricopa County Superior Court to halt the implementation of House Bill 2772, which grants sports betting licenses to ten sports franchises and ten tribes, allowing licensees to begin accepting wagers later this week on September 9.

The case is due to be heard in the court later today (September 6).

The suit also aims to void an amended gaming compact negotiated by Arizona Governor Doug Ducey and 20 of the state’s 22 federally recognized Indian tribes, which was approved by the US Department of Interior in May.

The amended compact allows the tribes to expand their casinos and offer new table games including roulette, baccarat and craps.

The Yavapai Prescott are claiming that the legislation is unconstitutional, and that the tribe will be unfairly disadvantaged by the expansion and new wagering opportunities created by the bill and amended compact.

Rosette, LLP, which is representing the Tonto Apache and Quechan tribes in the case, said that in fact the Yavapai Prescott tribe’s leaders chose not to participate in negotiations with the state throughout the legislative process.

The tribe is “pursuing a desperate, 11th-hour strategy that would unfairly penalize tribes that played by the rules and adhered to the terms and conditions,” it added.

Tonto Apache chairman Calvin Johnson said: “The truth is that we spent five years in painstaking, good-faith negotiations with the Governor and the Department of Gaming to protect our interests and ensure that our amended compact provides the best possible economic benefits for our people.

“We sought to engage Yavapai leaders in developing strategies that would benefit small, like-minded tribes like ours, but they declined, saying they would simply sue if they were unhappy with the outcome of negotiations.”

Today (September 6), a judge will conduct a hearing on the Yavapai tribe’s request for a temporary restraining order and injunction blocking HB 2772, but the Tonto and Quechan tribes have filed a notice of intent to intervene in the legal action, and will pursue a motion to dismiss as needed.

State Senator T.J. Shope, who sponsored the legislation, called it a fair and equitable law and criticized the Yavapai’s attempts to block its progress.

“I expect any legal challenges to be quickly dismissed so that the economic opportunities already happening as the result of Tribal-State Gaming Compact Amendment can continue to materialize,” Shope said.