Arizona Department of Gaming Working to Meet Fall Launch of Sports Betting

Arizona State Seal With a Casino Hotel Background
Arizona sports betting became legal last April, when Gov. Doug Ducey signed HB 2772 into a law. But it won’t be operational until the Arizona Department of Gaming can formulate and finalize the rules and regulations governing Arizona sports betting.

With state leaders wanting to launch Arizona sports betting by the time the NFL’s 2021 season starts, the Department of Gaming is working double-time in formulating the rules.

Said Max Hartgraves, public information officer of the Arizona Department of Gaming:

“We do need to set up a whole new regulatory structure and develop these rules. So, we are on a pretty tight timetable. Luckily, we do have that emergency clause, so we’re able to kind of expedite that rule-making process. But, just putting that whole regulatory structure in place, because this form of gaming has never been legal in the state.”

20 Licenses Have Been Issued

So far, a total of 20 Arizona sports betting licenses have been issued. 10 of these were given to Arizona tribal casinos while the other 10 were awarded to Arizona professional sports teams. Positioning has been quick with sports betting companies partnering with different sports teams in recent months.

The Arizona Diamondbacks of the MLB have partnered with Caesars Entertainment to build a retail sportsbook in the plaza adjacent to Chase Field and will launch their mobile sports betting app. The NBA’s Phoenix Suns will team up with FanDuel to bring a sportsbook to the Phoenix Suns Arena. Meanwhile, golf’s TPC Scottsdale has paired with DraftKings for the establishment of a sportsbook at its facility.

Approval by Bureau of Indian Affairs

Last month, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Indian Affairs gave the final nod for the legalization of Arizona sports betting by approving the amended tribal state gaming agreement between Gov. Ducey and the state’s tribal leaders. The tribes fought to protect their exclusive rights to most gambling in Arizona and they got that under the new agreement.

Aside from operating Arizona sports betting, the new law allows the tribal casinos to expand their gaming offerings by adding games such as baccarat and craps. They were also permitted to increase the number of slot machines while maintaining their existing offers for poker and blackjack.

California Sports Betting Will Be in 2022 Ballot

Casinos in California

The fate of California sports betting will be decided by state voters after an initiative to bring sports betting to the Golden State has qualified for the November 2022 ballot.

According to the California Secretary of State’s office on Thursday, the coalition of federally recognized California Indian tribes had collected enough signatures for a measure to add roulette, dice games, and California sports betting at tribal casinos to qualify for the ballot.

A total of 1,061,282 signatures of registered voters were verified via the California Secretary of State’s office, which is more than the 997,139 valid signatures required for the measure to be eligible for a statewide vote in the 2022 ballot.

Said Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians tribal chairman Mark Macarro:

“This is an important step toward giving Californians the opportunity to participate in sports wagering while also establishing safeguards and protections against underage gambling.”

Largest Prize in U.S. Sports Betting Market

Despite already being late in the sports betting game, California is considered as the largest prize in the United States sports betting market. That’s because it is home to the most number of professional sports teams in the country, including five MLB teams, four NBA franchises, three NFL squads, and three NHL teams.

Legalization of California sports betting is expected to generate $1B in annual gross revenue without online sports betting which isn’t included in the tribal initiative. If expanded to include online wagering, California sports betting is projected to haul in $3B per year.

California Sports Betting

Under the constitutional amendment, California sports betting would be allowed at tribal casinos and state-licensed race tracks for persons aged 21 or older. Betting would be allowed on professional sports games, out-of-state college or amateur sporting events, but betting on high school athletic contests and games involving California college teams are prohibited.

California Sports Betting would be imposed a 10% tax on gross gaming revenue with the money going to public safety, mental health programs, education, and regulatory expenses. The measure would also allow the Native American owned casinos to offer roulette and craps.

Florida Gov. De Santis Signs Seminole Sports Betting Bill

Odds Board and Money

Gov. Ron De Santis signed a legislation on Tuesday that would allow Florida’s Seminole tribe to offer sports betting while adding roulette and craps to their casino offerings.

The bill, which could be worth a potential $20B in taxes over the next 30 years for the Sunshine State, was approved by the Florida House and Senate last week. It still needs the confirmation of the U.S. Department of Interior, which oversees tribal gaming operations in the United States.

Seminole Sports Betting Could Start on October 15th

Under the agreement, Seminole sports betting could commence by October 15th. Wagering on sports at horse tracks, jai alai frontons, and former dog tracks will also be allowed for a share of the income. The Seminole tribe would also be permitted to operate legal online sports betting.

DeSantis also signed a bill on Tuesday that would establish a gambling commission that would regulate pari-mutuels and investigate illegal gambling in Florida. The Governor also signed another bill that allows jai alai frontons, dog tracks, and a harness racing track in the Miami-Dade and Broward counties to continue operating slots and card rooms even without holding live events. Under the deal, only thoroughbred race tracks are required to hold live racing events.

Critics Say Seminole Sports Betting Bill Violates Constitution

However, critics of the Seminole sports betting bill argue that it violates the state constitution on the ground that sports bets can be made outside tribal lands. However, supporters of the bill contended that since the servers used to operate online sport betting are located within Seminole property, then it is legal.

Meanwhile, Democrats who opposed the bill say that it also violates Amendment 3 of the state constitution passed by voters in 2018. That amendment prevents the expansion of gambling outside tribal property without the approval of voters.

Sahara Las Vegas and Grand Sierra To Pay $75K in Fines

Sahara Las Vegas Logo
The Sahara on the Las Vegas Strip and the Grand Sierra in Reno will pay $75,000 as a joint settlement for violating the state’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

According to settlement documents, the Los Angeles-based Meruelo Group, which owns both Sahara and Grand Sierra, did not “admit nor deny” the allegations. However, the Nevada casino operator agreed on the joint settlement because they believe that the Nevada Gaming Board “could meet its burden of proof if these matters were to proceed to the evidentiary hearing before the Commission.”

In a statement, the Meruelo Group said:

“Nothing is more important to us than the health and safety of our guests and team members and we will continue to work cooperatively with government agencies to meet these high standards and ensure compliance across our resorts.”

Various COVID-19 Related Violations

The Board filed a case against the Sahara Las Vegas last August, alleging that the resort hosted a July 23 luncheon event which was attended by an estimated 135 people. The state’s coronavirus guidelines permit Nevada casinos to host gatherings with a maximum of 50 people. Another case filed alleged that the hotel-casino allowed its customers to break social distancing rules at blackjack and craps tables last June 16.

On the other hand, a three-count case was filed against Grand Sierra last August 7th. In the complaint, Nevada regulators claimed that on three different occasions, state gaming agents witnessed guests not wearing masks inside the casino-hotel premises. The agents also said that casino officials and employees didn’t do anything to correct the practice.

Gaming Regulators File Complaints

Since Nevada casinos reopened last June 4th, gaming regulators have filed a total of six disciplinary complaints against Nevada casinos for COVID-19 related violations. Four of the cases have already been settled and were due for consideration on Thursday.

Bowl Incline in Lake Tahoe will pay $5,000 for not closing its bar top games on July 10. Slot operator Century Gaming is set to pay $15,000 for the same infraction involving Cheers Bar. Hotel Ely agreed to pay $15,000 after several employees were seen not wearing face masks. Meanwhile, the owners of the C.O.D. Casino also settled for a $30,000 payment for face mask violations.

Nevada casinos were allowed to open again last June with the state enforcing strict COVID-19 health and safety guidelines. The restrictions include reduced occupancy, more space between gamblers, head count limit for meeting and convention spaces.

Massachusetts Gaming Commission To Reconsider Roulette and Craps

MGM SpringfieldRoulette and Craps games may be coming back soon in the Bay State.

This development emerged after the  Massachusetts Gaming Commission announced that it will consider a request by by casinos to allow the restart of roulette and craps games which have not been permitted since the casinos were allowed to reopen early last month.

Reconsidering The Request

State regulators have been working with Encore and MGM on how the games can be played while maintaining social distancing between players and casino staff. The Commission is expected to  tackle the matter during a meeting scheduled for Thursday, August 13, 2020 at 10:00 a.m. via teleconference. 

In a statement last Tuesday, MGM said:

“We appreciate the Gaming Commission’s consideration of our request as we progress through a phased reopening with the health and safety of our employees and guests at the forefront of any decisions.”

MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor have asked the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to allow roulette and craps games at their establishments. The two are the only casinos in the state that offer table games. Despite the absence of roulette, craps, and poker, the casinos in Massachusetts have been able to handle the reopening well.

Massachusetts casinos were ordered closed by the state since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic. They have since been allowed to re-open but subject to the strict guidelines set by the Gaming Commission. The guidelines have not permitted casinos to offer roulette, craps, and poker games.

Re-Opening Guidelines

The re-opening guidelines have resulted in the gambling establishments reopening with an estimated one-third of their pre-COVID 19 capacities. The Commission’s guidelines include plexiglass dividers, spacing requirements, wearing of masks when not outdoors, eating, or drinking, and other health safety precautions.

The guidelines also called on the casinos to disable some of their slot machines and remove chairs in order to keep their guests separated. The distance required was four feet apart if there is a plexiglass and six feet apart if none. The table games that were allowed were restricted to three players per table.

Food service has also been limited to designated areas and they are allowed to operate according to the state rules for restaurants. Casinos were also told to consider non-contact temperature checks and prohibiting entry to any guest who registered 100.4 or higher on two consecutive checks.

MGM Springfield reopened over the weekend of July 10-13 after four months of closure. Encore and Plainridge Park reopened several days earlier. Plainridge is a slots parlor that does not offer table games. In Springfield, that meant 919 gaming positions from 810 slot machines and 90 seats at table games. MGM later expanded its offerings to 855 slot machines while still maintaining social distancing.