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.

Federal Government Approves Legal Arizona Sports Betting

Arizona State Flag and an Arizona Casino

The United States Department of the Interior approved on Monday an updated tribal gaming compact agreed upon last month by Gov. Doug Ducey and the state’s tribal leaders, paving way for the legalization of Arizona sports betting and online fantasy sports betting.

Said Gov. Ducey in a statement:

“Gaming creates thousands of jobs for Arizonans, it generates tax revenue that benefits key areas of our communities, and it draws visitors to our state. The tribal-state gaming compact amendment, along with its associated legislation, was the culmination of a multi-year process and I was proud to work with all the stakeholders on this historic accomplishment. The tribal-state gaming compact and its associated legislation now is officially in effect — thank you to everyone who worked to make this happen!”

Legal Gambling on Professional Sports

The approval of the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs was the last step in the legalization of Arizona sports betting. Professional teams will need to acquire state-issued licenses and set up their sports wagering operations. Backers of legal Arizona sports betting hope that everything will be ready in time for the start of the 2021 NFL season.

Under the deal, major professional sports groups will be able to offer legal Arizona sports betting on professional sports leagues like the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL. Online fantasy sports operators like DraftKings and FanDuel can “piggyback” on the approved licenses.

The deal also allows the tribes to expand their casino gambling options by adding games like craps and baccarat or increasing the number of slot machines in their properties.

Partnerships Have Started

Since the Governor and the tribes signed the new agreement, partnerships between sports organizations and sports betting companies have started. Earlier this month, the Arizona Diamondbacks and Caesars Entertainment announced a partnership to build a retail sportsbook in the plaza adjacent to Chase Field.

The NBA’s Phoenix Suns have also announced that the organization will partner with FanDuel to bring legal Arizona sportsbetting to the Phoenix Suns Arena via a retail sportsbook. The Suns say that the 6,300 square foot sportsbook is expected to be ready for the 2021-22 NBA season.

Likewise, the TPC Scottsdale which is the home of the Waste Management Phoenix Open golf tournament, revealed that it will be partnering with DraftKings to construct a sportsbook at the facility. TPC Scottsdale describe the project as a “19th hole experience” where fans can place bets all-year round.

Sports Betting Proposal Advances in Arizona House Panel

Arizona State Flag and an Arizona Casino
An Arizona House panel advanced a proposal that would permit legal betting on professional and collegiate sports at tribal casinos and venues owned by professional sports teams after hearing from the tribes and teams that back the deal that Gov Doug Ducey made with the tribes.

The proposal, authored by Rep. Jeff Weninger, would allow professional sports teams and tribes with existing casinos to conduct legal Arizona sports betting operations. It would also allow fantasy sports betting from online operators, new sports betting at horse racing tracks and selling of Keno tickets by groups like the VFW.

8% of the non-tribal legal Arizona sports betting profits will go to the state’s general fund while taxes from a maximum of 8% on tribal gaming revenues will go to the local governments and special state accounts. It is estimated that legal Arizona sports betting could bring in as much as $42M per year in additional state revenue.

Backed by Arizona Pro Sports Teams

Representatives for Arizona’s professional sports teams are backing the measure. Under Weninger’s proposal, teams like the Arizona Diamondbacks would be allowed to have sportsbooks inside and near their venues. Weninger’s initiative is also backed up by the major tribes in Arizona as it would allow them to add more table games while also operate sports betting facilities.

According to Arizona Diamondbacks representative Amilyn Pierce, teams in areas with legal sports betting bring in extra revenues that hurt the competitiveness of Arizona’s pro sports teams. Pierce said without legal Arizona sports betting, the state’s sports teams are at a disadvantage in a competitive market.

Small Businesses Are Being Left Out

Associations representing bars aren’t too thrilled with the proposal. Arizona’s bars, which were hit very hard by the pandemic, are complaining that they are being left out new opportunities, including new Keno games and fantasy sports betting. They argue that big operators will get more revenues from legal Arizona sports betting while bars are either closed or operating at limited capacity.

Democratic Rep. Diego Espinoza and eight other house members agree. Although the group voted for Weninger’s bill, they said that they want to see the bars and restaurants included in the measure, and that they may not back the bill in the full House if these small business are omitted.