A pair of Arizona sports betting bills with the support of Gov. Doug Ducey were filed earlier this week and would allow for statewide mobile sports wagering, as well as retail wagering at the state’s tribal casinos, professional sports venues and horse racetracks.
The bills would allow for a total of 30 sports betting licenses — 10 earmarked for pro sports franchises/venues, 10 for tribals casinos, and 10 “limited” licenses for retail only at horse racetracks. But the bills raise at least two big questions: What are the 10 sports venues, and if all are interested, which of the 16 federally recognized tribes currently operating casinos might not get licenses? According to the Arizona Department of Gaming website, 24 tribal casinos are currently run by 16 tribes.
House sponsor Jeff Weninger says HB 2772 is designed with some quid pro quo in mind — 10 commercial licenses and 10 tribal licenses, and that the tribes are on board.
“We’re trying to keep parity with what we’re doing for the tribal nations, but things can change, maybe,” Weninger told Sports Handle this week. “Some tribes don’t have casinos, and some tribes have sharing agreements. There’s a fund that can help out those tribal nations. The tribal nations are in agreement with this, and that’s something that they have agreed to.”
Phoenix’s pro teams could offer sports betting
The bills clearly indicate that the NFL Arizona Cardinals, Major League Baseball Arizona Diamondbacks, NBA Phoenix Suns, NHL Phoenix Coyotes, MLS Phoenix Rising, the PGA’s TPC-Scottsdale tour stop, and Phoenix Raceway would be entitled to licenses. That’s seven. Weninger said there weren’t 10 pro franchises or venues in mind when the bill was drafted, more that if passed, the law would allow up to 10 licenses for teams.
But, depending on what the specs are for a pro franchise or venue, several other pro teams could try for a license. In Virginia, for example, a team with headquarters in the state is eligible for a sports betting license, but that location must have a payroll of $200 million per year and at least 100 employees.
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In Arizona, there are other professional franchises, including the WNBA Phoenix Mercury, the USL’s FC Tucson, and the Arena Football League’s Arizona Rattlers. So far, in other states that have legalized sports betting at professional sports venues, only the major sports — and in some cases, not PGA or NASCAR venues — have been included in the mix.
It is currently legal to have a sportsbook at a professional sports venue or headquarters in Washington, D.C., Illinois, and Virginia.
Lawmaker: Bill ‘vetted’ by teams, tribes
On the tribal side, Weninger said he was confident that the tribes are on board with 10 licenses and were part of the discussion while the bill was being crafted.
“This bill has been well vetted by the pro teams and and the tribes,” he said.
At least one major operator already has market access secured alongside a potential licensee, as FanDuel announced a deal with the Phoenix Suns last fall.
And sources say other operators, including DraftKings and BetMGM, have been kicking the tires on potential partners in the state, including tribal partners. In fact, it wouldn’t be a surprise if DraftKings, which has already partnered with tribal casinos in Connecticut and Michigan, were to find a partner in Indian Country. On the flip side, DraftKings also has commercial partnerships with multiple pro sports entities, including the Chicago Cubs, the PGA Tour, and at least four NBA teams.
Our money is on Arizona, Connecticut, Georgia, Kansas, and Massachusetts legalizing sports betting in 2021.
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Beyond the question of who would get a license, Weninger’s bill, which mirrors one filed in the Senate by T.J. Shope, is fairly straightforward. Like a new bill in Massachusetts, however, it would leave a lot of the details to regulators. According to the legislation, the Arizona Department of Gaming would set the tax rate, application fees, and renewal fees.
The bill sets the wagering age at 21, allows for statewide mobile betting on college and pro sports, and legalizes daily fantasy. The bill does call for a ban on college prop bets, and it gives keno and up to two DFS kiosks to fraternal organizations, which previously had asked to be included in a gaming expansion.
Teams, tribes could add second books
There’s also a unique situation that hasn’t been considered or implemented elsewhere described in the bill. Section 5-3104, Section D, No. 1 reads:
EVENT WAGERING IN THIS STATE THROUGH AN EVENT WAGERING FACILITY WITHIN A FIVE-BLOCK RADIUS OF THE EVENT WAGERING OPERATOR’S SPORTS FACILITY. AN EVENT WAGERING FACILITY WITHIN ONE MILE OF A TRIBAL GAMING FACILITY MUST BE:
(a) WITHIN A SPORTS COMPLEX THAT INCLUDES RETAIL CENTERS THAT ARE ADJACENT TO THE SPORTS FACILITY. (b) NOT MORE THAN ONE-FOURTH OF A MILE FROM A SPORTS FACILITY
38 WITHIN THE SPORTS COMPLEX.
Weninger says that rather than creating an exclusion zone, as has been done in Washington, D.C., and will be done in Illinois, this section makes it so that a venue with a sportsbook could build an additional retail sportsbook within the specified space. As an example, he offered up that the NFL Cardinals’ State Farm Stadium is adjacent to a shopping mall, and within the parameters of the bill, the Cardinals (or their operating partner) would be able to build a second brick-and-mortar sportsbook within the mall so fans enjoying the game but not inside the stadium would be able to place a wager in person.
Should the bill pass, Arizona sportsbooks may have the opportunity to offer wagering on events other than explicitly on-field sports. The phrase “event wagering” is defined as “accepting wagers on sports events or other events, portions of sports events or other events, the individual performance statistics of athletes in a sports event or combination of sports events or the individual performance of individuals in other events or a combination of other events by any system or method of wagering.”
That language could leave the door open for wagering on things like the Heisman Trophy or the Academy Awards.
Weninger’s bill has been assigned to the House Commerce Committee, and a hearing is set for Feb. 9 at 2 p.m. MT.