Four days after the Arizona Department of Gaming indicated it would let event wagering operator applicants know their status, operators across the country are befuddled. Of the six operators partnered in Arizona with professional sports teams/franchises and aiming for a Sept. 9 launch, most say they’re still waiting for green-light approval as they prepare to go live in less than three weeks.
Bally’s, BetMGM, Caesars, DraftKings, FanDuel, and Penn National Gaming (Barstool Sportsbook) all have market access through high-level professional sports teams or franchises in the state, yet none is 100% certain of their status. In an informal poll of operators, answers about whether they (or their partners) are licensed ranged from “We’re not sure” to “We haven’t heard” to “We think so.” And one indicated that its pro partner was still working with the ADG to prove it is, in fact, a pro sports team.
The general mood is frustration as the ADG works its way through what’s turned out to be a complicated application process in the biggest state in the West with legal sports betting.
At a stakeholder meeting on Aug. 18, the agency did clarify that operators can begin creating player accounts and marketing on Aug. 28. The ADG is aiming to let applicants know by Aug. 27 if they will receive a license.
16 tribes applied
On Monday, the ADG publicly announced that it had 16 applications from tribes. As lawmakers approved 10 operator licenses for tribes, the ADG will now apply its 19-point list of criteria to the 16 applications to winnow the list to 10. Among the things that will be considered are speed to market, willingness to invest in the local community, whether an applicant has headquarters in Arizona, and physical location.
The rules for tribal licenses include “a preference that licenses be distributed among non-gaming tribes, rural gaming tribes, and to tribes located relatively near metropolitan areas in the state.”
Non-gaming rural tribes will benefit from a tribal gaming fund from which some event wagering revenue will be shared.
‘Point of no return’: Glendale to boot @ArizonaCoyotes from Gila River Arena after 2021-22 season
Note: The team is owned by Alex Meruelo who owns @SAHARALasVegas and @GrandSierra https://t.co/g9rLfBjDly @TheAthletic
— Howard Stutz (@howardstutz) August 19, 2021
On the commercial side, there were 10 applicants for 10 licenses. A source told Sports Handle this week that one applicant was rejected, though it was not among the major teams or franchises. Four of the five major professional teams plus the PGA and NASCAR are partnered with big-time sportsbooks, while the NHL Coyotes, who lost their lease in Glendale this week, appear to be planning to have a Coyotes-branded platform with a so-called “white-label” back-end operator. The other pro teams will all have sites at least partially branded by their partners, which include:
- Arizona Cardinals and BetMGM
- Arizona Diamondbacks and Caesars
- Phoenix Suns and FanDuel
- Phoenix Mercury and Bally’s
- Phoenix Raceway and Barstool Sportsbook
- TPC Scottsdale and DraftKings
Full steam ahead … despite haze
Operators partnered with pro teams are, for the most part for now, moving forward as if their pro partners will secure licenses. Caesars is so far the only major operator to say that it will have in-person wagering (via kiosk) available on the projected Sept. 9 go-live date, while Barstool, BetMGM, FanDuel, and DraftKings say they’ll launch mobile as soon as the ADG says they can, with retail locations to follow.
Arizona is going to be a powerhouse sports betting state that will make a lot of people in NV & CA very nervous.
Biggest key to success? Plentiful licenses and a licensing application that is a single page long.
Giddy up! 🏇
— Captain Jack Andrews (@capjack2000) July 26, 2021
In response to issues that have cropped up with licensing, the ADG on Aug. 18 held the first of three scheduled “Event Wagering and Daily Fantasy Operations Meetings.” The ADG clarified how applicants could submit everything from financial documents to insurance information to requests to approve promotions. It also provided a list of requested information, including notification of location of servers and contact information for operators’ integrity monitoring and geofencing partners.
The agency has plans for two additional meetings on Aug. 25 and Sept. 1.