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Utes Tribe Sues Colorado Over Online Sports Betting

Utes Leadership At Colorado State Capitol

We knew it wouldn’t be long before the tribal sports betting precedent set in Florida inspired Native American gaming interests to follow the Seminoles’ lead. The Southern Ute Indian Tribe is now suing the Colorado Gaming Division and Governor Jared Polis because of delays in their licensing to operate online sportsbooks.

Colorado sports betting has been thriving since debuting in May 2020. The monthly handle has grown, routinely surpassing half a million dollars each month, with an all-time high of $716,430,270 in December of last year.

The Tribe must now fight for a small piece of that market. They filed the lawsuit on Tuesday in the U.S. District Court of Colorado.

The Florida Model

Sports betting in FL, from a domestic perspective, is a monopoly run by the Seminole Tribe of Florida. They operate a few 21+ Hard Rock Casinos around the Sunshine State, and many of them now have an in-person sportsbook.

The state and the Seminole Tribe spent a few years in court battling against Miami-based card rooms and racetracks that wanted a percentage of the sports betting cut.

The lawsuit suggested that the gaming compact was illegal because gambling can only occur on tribal lands. A trio of appellate judges ruled that gambling occurs where the servers are based, not where the web-connected device is located.

The challenge reached the United States Supreme Court but was denied a hearing, thus firmly establishing the appellate court ruling as the final word.

What The Utes Want In Colorado

The Tribe is of the opinion that they are not subject to taxation by the state. They entered the market with the Sky Ute Sportsbook App in 2020 but closed operations in 2023.

“Governor Polis has sought to manipulate the market so he can extract the maximum amount of taxes from sport betting activities with no care, concern or respect for the negative economic consequences for Colorado’s Tribal communities.”

An Excerpt From Tuesday’s Lawsuit Filing

The Southern Utes allege that the Governor delayed their licensure to ensure that several other domestic vendors would be licensed and in place before them.

Even if the Utes Tribe wins the lawsuit, it can only attain a minute percentage of CO’s online and mobile market. There are currently 19 licensed online sports betting venues in the Centennial State, including all of the most nationally recognized domestic vendors.

However, if the 10% tax is waived, the Utes could offer perks other books cannot. Be honest. Would you place a bet with the Sky Ute Sportsbook App when options like DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, and Caesars exist?

Other States Where Tribes Could Make An Impact

New Mexico has the best shot of any state to take advantage of the Florida model. Currently, local tribes host casinos on their property that offer in-person sports betting based on current compact language. There is no online or mobile betting in NM at this time.

Although there are no tribal casinos or sportsbooks in Alaska, there aren’t any retail operators, either. There are federally recognized tribes present that could take advantage of the SCOTUS’ FL ruling.


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