After hours of discussion, failed amendments and multiple votes, the Arizona Senate on Monday night amended its SB 1797, which would allow for statewide mobile sports betting, then stripped it and replaced it with HB 2772, its House counterpart. All of the machinations were necessary to get the bill passed, sent back to the House for concurrence, and ultimately onto Gov. Doug Ducey’s desk for signature.
The full Senate passed the final version of the bill, 23-6. A two-thirds majority was required to pass the bill, which will allow for wagering at tribal casinos and professional sports venues.
The bill and its House counterpart were drafted with input from Ducey, who is expected to the sign the bills when they reach his desk. The legislation also contains provisions that will legalize daily fantasy sports in Arizona.
The process was condemned by Sen. Sally Ann Gonzales, who called the legislation “unfair,” “a sham,” and suggested that it would line the pockets of businesses she referred to as “Ducey’s tribe,” meaning Arizona’s professional sports teams, NASCAR, and the PGA. She said Ducey had crafted legislation that was not fair to tribes. Gonzales at more than one point seemed on the verge of tears as she all but accused Ducey of strong-arming Arizona’s tribes into agreeing to the legislation.
Senator voted out of order
The Senate ultimately voted that Gonzales was out of order and by voice vote forced her to state her “no” vote and yield the floor. Several other senators offered up their explanations for votes before the process was complete, including Sens. Victoria Steele and Rebecca Pope, who argued that their votes were not bought, that tribal leaders signed off on the legislation, and that the negotiation with the tribes has been ongoing and in good faith.
Well it feels great to say that the bill that I and @TJShopeforAZ worked so hard on is heading to Governor @dougducey .Thank you to everyone involved. Sports betting is coming to Arizona in a few months. pic.twitter.com/rzV6qA2Rv6
— Jeff Weninger (@JeffWeninger) April 13, 2021
In the end, Gonzales’ comments may have had the opposite effect from what she intended — when voting was complete, but before Gonzales began to explain her vote, the count was 16-5 with nine no votes. By the time voting was complete, seven senators had joined the “aye” side of the voting.
Gonzales, who is also a member of the Yaqui Community of Guadalupe, introduced eight amendments to the bill and a Commerce Committee amendment. She also called for a roll-call vote on the amendments after the Committee of the Whole passed the bill.
“The tribes do want it and they’ve asked our leaders to vote for it, but you know how they’re doing it. With their hands behind their backs,” Gonzales said in a statement earlier in the day. “Because they need and want a new compact and the governor is holding this legislation to pass before he signs a new compact with them.”
One of her amendments would have broken the parity that lawmakers are striving for. The bill includes 10 licenses for professional sports venues/teams and 10 for federally recognized tribes. Each licensee would have the ability to offer wagering at a brick-and-mortar sportsbook and at its associated online/mobile sportsbook. There are fewer than 10 professional sports teams in Arizona and more than 10 tribes. In most states where sports betting was legalized post-PASPA, licenses are generally earmarked for existing gaming locations, and in some cases other venues.
According to Gonzales, there are 23 federally recognized tribes, and each should have access to a license. But like her other amendments, that one failed as well.
Her tribe released a statement on Monday saying it supports the compact and the legislation moving forward.
Bill languished ahead of vote
After languishing for weeks in committee, the issue of sports betting got new legs late last week when Senate bill sponsor T.J. Shope tweeted about it. The Senate bill, SB 1797, which seemed to be abandoned in mid-February, was withdrawn from the Appropriations Committee on April 8 ahead of Monday’s Rules Committee hearing.
The issue of sports betting has been awash in political maneuvering for months. Most recently, there were rumblings that Democratic lawmakers would pull their support of the bill over the Georgia voting-rights bill (sports betting failed in Georgia because of that), and on the flip side, that Republicans wanted to punish Major League Baseball for moving the All-Star Game and would prohibit sports betting at the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Chase Field.
Prior to that, some senators complained that they were not privy to the compacting process between Ducey and the state’s tribes, and because of that, the lawmakers said, they were not in full support of the bill. And a few weeks ago, a “strike everything” amendment to another sports betting proposal that circulated reportedly had a typo in it, causing angst among tribal leaders.
Lots happening but between Event Wagering, firefighter protections I’ve worked with @PaulDBoyer on, and my own personal news about receiving my second #COVID19 #moderna vaccine dose, it’s all here in this Snapshot of the Week! #LD08 https://t.co/40KWqv2R8v
— T.J. Shope (@TJShopeforAZ) April 9, 2021
Arizona is poised to become the fifth U.S. jurisdiction to legalize sports betting at professional sports venues.
The inclusion of sports betting at professional sports venues is a growing trend, with Maryland lawmakers earlier in the day also approving a bill that would allow betting at professional sports venues. The Washington, D.C., City Council was the first to approve such legislation in 2018, and Capital One Arena opened for retail sports betting last summer. A year later, Illinois lawmakers OK’d wagering at pro stadiums and arenas. If Arizona legislators legalize, they’ll be the third in less than a year to bring betting into the concourses of ballparks, football stadiums, and basketball arenas.