Ten Arizona Tribes to Offer Online Athletic Betting, 11th License Suddenly Withdrawn

Posted on: September 1, 2021, 08:43h. 

Last updated on: September 1, 2021, 11:20h.

The Arizona Department of Gaming (ADG) recently approved online sports wagering for ten tribes in the state. Another tribal license was also approved, but suddenly withdrawn.

Event wagering will not go live until Sept. 9.
Arizona’s Cliff Castle Casino, owned and operated by Yavapai-Apache Nation, pictured above. A sports wagering license was given to the tribal gaming property but then withdrawn because of an error. (Image: Prescott eNews)

Cliff Castle Casino, owned and operated by Yavapai-Apache Nation, was granted the license on Aug. 23. It was under a partnership with PointsBet, an Australian sportsbook operator. But two days later, regulators told Cliff Castle Casino the license was an “administrative error,” according to a company statement.

The fact that we were issued a license and then told that we did not get a license with no explanation has raised more questions than answers about the license allocation process,” Cliff Castle Casino General Manager Aaron Moss said in a statement.

Event wagering will not go live until Sept. 9. Rory Dilweg, an attorney focusing on tribal law at Ocotillo Law and Policy Partners, told Casino.org that the ten tribes were approved for “off-reservation, mobile sports wagering.”

These include the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe, which partnered with SuperBook Sports. It is affiliated with Westgate Las Vegas, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, reported. The San Carlos Apache Tribe, partnered with Las Vegas-based WynnBET, was approved too, the report adds.

Other licenses were given to Arizona’s Hualapai Tribe, partnered with Golden Nugget, Houston, operated by Fertitta Entertainment, as well as Quechan Tribe, partnered with UniBet Arizona, and Tonto Apache, partnered with Churchill Downs. Licenses also went to San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe, partnered with Digital Gaming Corp, the Navajo Nation, the Tohono O’odham Nation, the Ak-Chin Indian Community, and Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation.

Tribes that signed the 2021 compact amendments can also operate retail sportsbooks in on-reservation gaming properties throughout Arizona, Dilweg said.

Potentially Lucrative Online Sports Betting

“Sports betting has relatively high expenses and low margins. Tribes do not expect to make a lot of money off of retail sportsbooks,” Dilweg said when asked about athletic wagering. “Tribes do hope to realize more significant revenue off of mobile sports betting.”

Sports Gary S. Pitchlynn, a tribal gaming attorney in Oklahoma, told Casino.org that “Sports wagering has always generated a lot of interest and money … if structured properly.”

I would expect that many tribes will choose to engage an upstream partner to both share the risk and to provide proven expertise in establishing spreads/odds,” Pitchlynn added.

He said there remains a question in the Arizona compact whether the state can legally restrict the number of tribes that can offer sports wagering.

“It seems that once a state legalizes a gaming activity that all tribes within that jurisdiction have the right to add those games to their house as well,” Pitchlynn speculated.

Last month, the Yavapai Prescott Indian Tribe filed a lawsuit against Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) over the legalization of sports betting in April.

Pro Team Approvals

Eight sports organizations were also approved by the ADG. These include the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals, partnering with Las Vegas-based BetMGM, MLB’s Arizona Diamondbacks, partnering with William Hill, which is affiliated with Caesars Entertainment, the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, partnering with fantasy sports operator FanDuel, and the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes, and WBNA’s Phoenix Mercury, partnering with Rhode Island-based Bally’s Corp.

The PGA’s TPC Scottsdale, partnering with fantasy sports operator DraftKings, NASCAR-affiliated Phoenix Speedway, partnering with Pennsylvania-based Penn National Gaming, and the Indoor Football League Arizona Rattlers, partnering with Chicago-based Rush Street Interactive.

In Arizona, fantasy sports went live on Aug. 28. Licensed fantasy sports operators include DraftKings, FanDuel, FFPC, Yahoo, Fantasy Sports Shark, and Underdog Sports.