NHL’s Coyotes Want Arizona Gaming Law Altered for Arena Move

Posted on: March 30, 2022, 11:06h. 

Last updated on: March 30, 2022, 11:20h.

The NHL’s Arizona Coyotes are seeking a tweak to a newly minted sports betting law in the state. But local tribal gaming entities oppose the effort.

Arizona Coyotes
Scenes from an Arizona Coyotes game. The team wants to offer mobile sports betting at its temporary arena. But tribal gaming groups oppose that effort. (Image: Sporting News)

The Coyotes are moving to Arizona State’s hockey arena next season, where the team will play for the next three campaigns until a new venue in Tempe is ready. At issue are the facts that the college hockey complex has a seating of capacity of just 5,000. But Arizona law requires sports venues to accommodate at least 10,000 for betting to be offered on those premises.

The Arizona Indian Gaming Association and several local tribes oppose the law change, noting that the legislation passed last year that opened the state to regulated sports wagering is part of a broader, more complex gaming compact they negotiated with Gov. Doug Doocy (R).

The Arizona Senate’s appropriations committee approved a measure that would help the Coyotes on Tuesday.

‘Unnecessary Turf War’

Regulated sports wagering launched in Arizona last September, and it’s been an unbridled success in the state. That’s because policymakers there opened the market to include 20 licensees, split among professional sports franchises and tribal gaming entities.

The sports teams partner with commercial gaming companies, including DraftKings, FanDuel, Caesars, and BetMGM to offer mobile betting. Dividing the state’s legal sports betting market among commercial and tribal operators appears to be working well. But as they do in other states, tribal gaming groups are complaining, all but saying they want a monopoly unto themselves.

Last September, the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe pursued litigation, claiming the state acted in bad faith in negotiating sports wagering accords. But a Maricopa County Superior Court judge didn’t issue a temporary injunction. The new rift with the Coyotes underscores the lengths some tribal gaming entities will go to thwart competition.

To see this, this opposition from the tribe, is really upsetting because this does not negatively affect the tribes one iota. None, zero,” Sen. Sonny Borrelli, a Republican from Lake Havasu City, told the Associated Press. “It’s moving from one location to the other, and it’s temporary.”

The Coyotes said they don’t want to open a retail sportsbook at the Arizona State facility, but they want to continue offering mobile wagering in the arena. Moreover, the NHL team is seeking temporary permission continue with mobile betting while at ASU. It’s scheduled to move into a new $1.7 billion venue in Tempe in three years.

Arizona Learned Important Lessons

What comes of the Coyotes/tribal gaming spat remains to be seen. But the fact remains that Arizona’s legal sports wagering market is vibrant and one of the fastest-growing in the country.

Conversely, states with single-operator schemes and those that don’t allow mobile betting are merely bit players, and aren’t accessing regulated sports betting’s growth potential to its fullest extent.

Washington State, where tribes control sports betting, proves as much.