Colorado Tribe Sues State and Governor Over Sports Betting Rollout

Sky UTE Sportsbook

The Southern Ute Indian Tribe in Colorado is suing Governor Jared Polis (D) and Colorado Gaming Division Director Christopher Schroder over the implementation of sports betting in the state. District Court, alleging that Polis and Schroder failed to negotiate in good faith as required by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA).

The tribe’s attorneys argue that they sought collaboration with Polis and the gaming regulatory agency to prepare for the launch of their retail and online sportsbooks.

US Bookmaking, threatened with the revocation of its vendor operating license, suspended the online Sky Ute Sportsbook. The tribe also closed its retail sportsbook at the Sky Ute Casino Resort in July 2023, citing insufficient profitability.

Litigation Claims Money Fueled State’s Actions

The tribe alleges that Polis’ motivation to exclude them from the online sports betting market was driven by tax revenue interests. On the same date, CODOG sent a similar letter to the Ute Mountain Ute’s online sportsbook provider, IGT, leading to the closure of their online sportsbook as well.

Southern Ute lawyers claim that although the governor and the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs agreed to a formal consultation in October 2021, by then, existing online sports betting platforms had already established their market presence.

The lawsuit states that the Polis administration and CODOG allowed tribes to operate in-person sportsbooks at their casinos but demanded 10% of their online sportsbook revenue. Additionally, they insisted that any online sportsbook accepting bets from non-sovereign lands would be subject to CODOG’s regulatory oversight.

Seminole Ruling Cited

The lawsuit references a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in June that upheld lower court rulings regarding a 2021 compact between Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) and the Seminole Tribe. This compact granted the Seminoles exclusive rights to online sports betting, which was argued not to violate IGRA as bets were accepted on servers located on tribal land. The Southern Ute’s lawsuit cites these rulings in support of their case.

The Southern Ute Indian Tribe is asking the federal district court to declare their online sportsbook lawful, to direct the state to cease violating their gaming compact, and to award financial damages.

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