Arizona Legislature Passes Sports Betting, Clears Way for New Tribal Compacts

Posted on: April 13, 2021, 11:05h. 

Last updated on: April 13, 2021, 01:44h.

The Arizona legislature sent the state’s sports betting bill to the desk of Governor Doug Ducey late Monday, where it’s expected to be enthusiastically signed off by the Republican governor.

Arizona sports betting
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has been a champion of sports betting and is expected to waste no time in signing the bill. (Image: Line17.qq)

The bill will create 20 betting licenses, mobile and land-based, which will be split down the middle between tribal operators and pro sports organizations. This means fans of teams like the Arizona Coyotes, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Arizona Cardinals could soon have in-stadium betting.

The legislation also legalizes daily fantasy sports, along with a new Keno game to be run by the lottery.

It’s projected the bill will generate $34.2 million in annual general fund revenue by 2024.

Ducey has been an early champion of sports betting. The governor’s compact negotiations with the state’s tribal operators secured crucial backing for the bill from the initially hesitant tribes.

Tense Negotiations

Tribal operators are notoriously reluctant to support gambling expansion in the legislature, where it might also benefit commercial interests. That’s why one of Arizona’s previous attempts to legalize sports betting fell short.

The  tribes prefer such matters to be addressed during compact negotiations, which can be long and complex.

But the timing was on Ducey’s side. The compacts that gave the tribes exclusivity on casino gaming for the past 20 years were due for renewal, making renegotiation a necessity.

Ducey announced he had reached a consensus with the tribes in January. The exact details of the new compact terms have not been publicized. But the governor has said he has tentatively agreed to let them expand their casinos, including an unspecified number of new casinos in metro Phoenix.

Wrecking Amendment

The agreement cleared a path for the legislature to push the bill through. But it was held up by a logjam in a Senate committee. It then became attached to a wrecking amendment related to historical horse racing, before being disentangled from that legislation last week.

 A new tribal-state gaming compact just passed the legislature!” tweeted Ducey Monday night. “The updated agreement is a win-win for Arizonans, tribal members, and sports leagues and teams. Thank you to everyone who worked to improve Arizona’s gaming compact!”

Arizona has 22 federally recognized tribes, 16 of which operate 24 casinos. An additional six have slot-machine rights but no casinos, so they lease their rights to other tribes that do.

The 22 tribes are not expected to have to compete for the ten licenses allotted to them. Tribal leaders testified earlier this year that not every operator would pursue an online license. It’s unlikely they would have agreed to compact terms that sold them short on licenses.