On the same day that the NFL released the date of the 2023 Super Bowl in Glendale, Ariz., regulators in that state announced they would share proposed event wagering regulations with an eye toward launching operators Sept. 9, the first day of the NFL season. The Dallas Cowboys play at the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a Thursday Night Football game to open the season, while the Arizona Cardinals open Sunday, Sept. 12, at the Tennessee Titans.
Arizona regulators are among those in three states with plans to roll out or approve proposed sports betting rules in the next two weeks — the Wyoming Gaming Commission has rules approval on its June 8 agenda, and the Washington State Gambling Commission on Thursday announced a special meeting, also on June 8, to roll out proposed regulations.
On May 24, the U.S. Department of the Interior approved and published the tribal-state compact that will allow an expansion of gaming in Arizona, including sports betting and daily fantasy contests. The compact was signed and lawmakers legalized sports betting on April 15, meaning that if the Department of Gaming hits its Sept. 9 go-live date, Arizona will have one of the shortest runways from legal to live. The two fastest were Indiana and Iowa, both of which were live less than four months after lawmakers legalized in 2019.
For Arizona, the quick timeline is no small feat and is especially quick considering that Arizona needed federal approval for its compact and that more than 20 tribes offer gaming in the state.
Who will get licensed?
As the process moves forward, stakeholders will be carefully watching how sports betting licenses are awarded. The legislation and compact allow for 10 retail and digital licenses each to tribal casinos and commercial sports venues. There are also 10 additional retail-only licenses for horse-racing facilities. There are 21 tribes operating 26 casinos in the state, so not all tribes will get sports betting licenses.
Fantastic news and a reminder of how huge this deal was. Thankful I was able to work with my friend, Rep. @JeffWeninger and Gov @dougducey, on this! Expanded gaming is now in effect! https://t.co/Enak8heicv
— T.J. Shope (@TJShopeforAZ) May 24, 2021
Depending on how the law and compact are interpreted, there appear to be fewer than 10 commercial sports venues/teams. Caesars Entertainment (Arizona Diamondbacks), DraftKings (PGA Tour), and FanDuel (Phoenix Suns) already have market access via partnerships, and it’s likely that either Penn National/Barstool Sports or WynnBET will capitalize on a NASCAR partnership to gain access at Phoenix Raceway. The Arizona Cardinals and Phoenix Coyotes have not yet announced partners, and what other venues could round out the 10 licenses is unclear.
On the tribal side, Caesars would also have access via a long-standing partnership through Harrah’s with the Ak-Chin Indian Community, and sources previously confirmed that BetMGM will partner with the Gila River Indian Community, which owns and operates the Lone Butte, Vee Quiva, and Wild Horse Pass casinos in suburban Phoenix. BetMGM has not confirmed the deal, but if it’s in place, that would mean that four major national players are already prepping to launch in Arizona.
What’s next in Arizona, Wyoming, Washington
Once the rules are posted on June 14, there will be a one-week public-comment period, according to the Department of Gaming timeline. Following that, some suggestions could be worked into the proposed rules, and the Department of Gaming will then post permanent rules to vote on. From there, operators can apply for licenses.
In Wyoming, the gaming commission reviewed suggested changes from operators during its June 2 meeting. The commission rolled out proposed rules in early May and began the process of taking stakeholder comments on May 11. Most comments were technical in nature, though stakeholders did voice concerns about how voided bets would be handled and the auditing of internal control systems.
Wyoming gaming chief Charles Moore said he’s aiming for a fall go-live date. The new Wyoming sports betting law requires rules be approved by Sept. 1.
— Alfonso Straffon 🇨🇷🇺🇸🇲🇽 (@astraffon) May 22, 2021
In Washington, regulators have been discussing sports betting rules on and off since last summer. Lawmakers there legalized tribal-only retail wagering on March 25, 2020. The WSGC has since then been negotiating individual compacts with each of the state’s federally recognized tribes, and it has more recently been developing proposed rules. As of May 13, the WSGC had deals with 15 tribes and was taking “pre-licensing investigation packets” from potential operators.