With one exception, Arizona stakeholders on Monday reiterated their position that they believe the state’s new sports betting law calls for a single skin, or mobile platform, per licensed “event wagering operator,” and they requested that the Arizona Department of Gaming make that clear in its regulations.
Besides that discussion, ADG Director Ted Vogt reiterated that the plan remains a Sept. 9 sports betting launch. To that end, Vogt told stakeholders that the immediate goal is to have a revised set of rules available for review by the end of this week, with the idea of approving final rules in the first half of July. There will also be a second, short public-comment period before the final rules are put in place.
Though proposed rules are often opened for a 30-day (or longer) public-comment period, Arizona lawmakers legalized sports betting with an emergency clause, meaning the ADG has more flexibility to move the process along quickly.
What didn’t get addressed during the meeting is nearly as interesting as what did. The proposed rules do not include licensing fees for major licenses, including event wagering operators or management services providers, and there is no explanation for how the ADG will divvy up the 10 event wagering licenses earmarked for tribal casinos. There are more than 20 federally recognized gaming tribes in the state, so not all will be licensed, and the law does not lay out how that decision process will work.
Law is ambiguous on number of platforms
With regard to the number of mobile platforms that will be allowed in the state, the law allows for 10 event wagering licenses for professional sports franchises and 10 for tribal casinos. Most stakeholders support one skin per operator, but some interested in operating in Arizona have recently questioned if there could be more than one per licensee.
The law is not quite clear, because the word “platform” is not defined in the statute, but is used in the following section of the law, Section 5-1303:
G. AN EVENT WAGERING OPERATOR MAY USE MORE THAN ONE EVENT WAGERING PLATFORM TO OFFER, CONDUCT OR OPERATE EVENT WAGERING. ONLY AN EVENT WAGERING OPERATOR OR ITS MANAGEMENT SERVICES PROVIDER MAY PROCESS, ACCEPT, OFFER OR SOLICIT WAGERS. THE EVENT WAGERING OPERATOR MUST CLEARLY DISPLAY ITS OWN BRAND OR THAT OF AN AFFILIATE ON THE EVENT WAGERING PLATFORM THAT IT USES.
Operators and sports franchises have argued that “platform” refers to retail vs. mobile, meaning that, for example, event wagering operator XYZ could contract with William Hill to run its retail sportsbook and PointsBet to run its digital sportsbook. Each would require its own “platform” to take wagers.
Arizona Department Of Gaming: Game On For Sept. 9 Sports Betting Launch; Expect Finished Rules In July https://t.co/LFf5SJRcDD
— Andrew Diss (@AndrewDissNV) June 21, 2021
How this plays out will be left to the ADG to sort out, and as yet, nothing in the proposed regulations indicates what a platform is or how many any one event wagering operator is entitled to.
“We understood one skin per license,” said David Miller, representing TPC Scottsdale. “I don’t know if a single-skin model is better or worse for the Arizona market, but that’s what we understand it to be.”
Said Amy Lynn Pierce of the Arizona Diamondbacks: “As someone involved in the legislation, I can say it was ALWAYS our belief there would be one skin. … It’s extremely important to us that that be clarified.”
The only dissenting voice either day was from Matt Olin, the CEO of Apache Gaming Enterprises.
“Our position is that the legislation is very clear in that it provides for more than one platform per license.”
It’s not yet public knowledge who the San Carlos Apache Tribe, which owns and operates the Apache Gold Casino in suburban Phoenix, will partner with for sports betting. DraftKings will operate a retail casino and digital platform in partnership with TPC Scottsdale through a deal with the PGA Tour. Both Penn National Gaming and WynnBet have deals with NASCAR, but market access via Phoenix Raceway hasn’t been announced yet.
FanDuel has market access via a deal with the Phoenix Suns, and Caesars (William Hill) has market access via a deal with the Diamondbacks and a long-standing partnership through its Harrah’s brand with the Ak-Chin Indian Community.
Official data, advance downloads also discussed
Vogt invited comments on any and all rules, and the number of skins was the most popular issue. During Friday’s session, multiple potential licensees were clear that they, too, understood that one skin was the plan.
Several other topics came up during the 25-minute meeting:
- Miller and Sportradar’s Brandt Iden asked for clarification around the use of official league data. Arizona’s rules seem to put the use (or not) of official league data in the hands of operators rather than sports governing bodies, as is the case in most other U.S. jurisdictions. Iden asked for some “metrics around what those provisions would be for an operator in terms of an opt out.”
- Trevor Hayes, representing Caesars/William Hill, asked that the rule requiring physical computer brands on voided tickets be stricken. He told the ADG such a requirement is “not usual” elsewhere.
- Hayes also asked if operators would be allowed to market and encourage advance downloads of their apps ahead of official launch. Vogt said, “Yes, we intend to do that.”
- FanDuel’s Andrew Winchell requested clarification around some of the language on financial reserves and suggested that wording be changed around the use of responsible gaming hotlines to make it easier for multi-state operators to provide a single national 800 number rather than state-specific numbers.