Southern Ute Tribe to Take Colorado to Court Over Sports Betting

Written by:
Aaron Goldstein
Published on:

A Colorado tribe is suing the state claiming it was frozen out of the sports betting landscape there as officials attempted to control and tax the Sky Ute Sportsbook platform.


Additionally, The Southern Ute Indian Tribe is suing Colorado's governor, Jared Polis as well as the director of the Colorado Division of Gaming.

The lawsuit "details a yearslong conflict between Southern Ute Indian and Colorado officials about whether sports betting falls under existing tribal agreements for gaming," writes Kate Langford of the Denver Post.

“The state’s wrongful legal posture also threatens the tribe’s future sports betting activity and other potential future activities under the Gaming Compact,” attorneys for the tribe wrote.

State voters just narrowly voted 50.8% to allow sports betting via a ballot referendum in November 2019.

From the Denver Post:

In the complaint, attorneys from Denver law firm Greenberg Traurig claim a 1993 agreement authorizes the tribe to conduct gaming as long as it’s in line with gaming activities identical to those allowed elsewhere in Colorado – including sports betting.

But since shortly before sports betting became legal in Colorado in May 2020, state officials have acted in bad faith toward the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, seeking to exert authority and collect taxes on the tribe’s sports betting platform, the lawsuit claims.

State leaders did not try to meet with Southern Ute Indian officials until just before sports betting became legal and subsequently tried to pressure the tribe’s vendor, threatening the company’s license if it provided “off-reservation services” to the tribe.

Southern Ute Tribal Chairman Melvin J. Baker commented on the lawsuit Monday in a meeting of the American Indian Affairs Interim Study Committee.

“Today, for the first time in decades, the Southern Ute Indian Tribe has been forced to file a lawsuit in federal court against the state of Colorado because the administration refuses to honor express commitments the state made to the Tribe,” Baker said.

A spokesperson from Gov. Polis’ office said they “don’t have a comment on this pending litigation."

According to the complaint, a Southern Ute sports book would be able to accept on-reservation bets by online gamblers anywhere in the state of Colorado, similar to what we now see in the state of Florida where a state compact with the Seminoles gives that tribe a monopoly over sports betting.


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