Multiple industry sources confirm that FanDuel is close to a deal with the Phoenix Suns to become the organization’s sportsbook partner. That would make FanDuel the first national sports betting operator operator to announce a deal with an Arizona professional team, and suggests that when state lawmakers reconvene in 2021, they will not only consider sports betting, but that any proposal will look considerably different than previous renditions. In addition, the deal points to the possibility that Arizona lawmakers will try to legalize sports betting at professional sports arenas and online/mobile.
To date, the only two U.S. jurisdictions that have legalized retail sports betting at pro venues are Washington, D.C. and Illinois. Eleven jurisdictions currently have live, legal online/mobile sports betting.
The first sportsbook in a pro sports venue opened July 31 when William Hill‘s temporary sportsbook went live at Washington, D.C.’s Capital One Arena, home to the NBA Wizards and NHL Capitols.
William Hill makes sportsbook history with Capital One Arena launch https://t.co/1PBMCQTFh4 #LatestNews #NBA pic.twitter.com/5KsBgqnZJk
— SBC NEWS (@SBCGAMINGNEWS) August 4, 2020
Every major pro league is represented in Arizona
Several sources say the push for sportsbooks in pro arenas in Arizona is being driven by U.S. professional sports leagues. Like neighboring Colorado, and a dozen other states, Arizona has at least one representative from the four major U.S. professional sports leagues, which also makes it an attractive destination for sports wagering operators.
Besides the Suns’ Talking Stick Arena, metro Phoenix is home to Chase Field (MLB Diamondbacks), Gila River Arena (NHL Coyotes), and State Farm Stadium (NFL Cardinals), which is more colloquially known as the Fiesta Bowl and is part of the College Football Playoff rotation. There is also an auto-racing venue, and myriad Major League Baseball spring training facilities.
FanDuel isn’t the only company looking into partners in Arizona. According to sources, DraftKings, PointsBet and others have toured facilities in the state. Gaming in Arizona is currently limited to tribal properties. There are 22 federally recognized tribes in Arizona and 24 casinos, according to the Arizona Indian Gaming Association. Seventeen tribes operate casinos, and several operate more than one.
Many of the casinos are located in the metro Phoenix area, and two — the Gila River Indian Community and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, already have ties to professional sports via stadium sponsorship deals.
The bill being worked on for 2021 won’t resemble Sonny Borrelli’s SB 1525, which was originally filed in 2019. That bill would have allowed for in-person sports betting at tribal locations and would also permit tribes to rent space in commercial locations and run sports betting (which may not be legal). Even the tribes were opposed to this bill because they believe that legal sports betting should be handled through tribal-state compacts, not through the state legislature.
What’s in the works will look a lot more like Michigan’s new law, which includes a statewide mobile component that Arizona tribes had previously opposed. In Michigan, tribes are not regulated or taxed by state regulators, and it is unclear what the situation could be in Arizona. The only state in which tribal entities have agreed to be regulated by the state is Washington, and the tribes won’t be taxed there. The Arizona Department of Gaming is the likely regulator.
Could PGA be in the mix, too?
With statewide mobile in play, the list of professional sports governing bodies that could apply for sports betting licenses could expand to include the PGA and LPGA, according to a source. Both have their headquarters in Florida, but the PGA has been at the forefront of lobbying states to include an “integrity fee” and the use of official league data in bills. To date, no U.S. jurisdiction has agreed to a direct, off-the-top cut of legal wagers payable to a sports league(s), but laws in Tennessee, Michigan and Illinois all include a mandate for sportsbooks to use official league data.
How the PGA or LPGA would be eligible for a sports betting license or at what venues in Arizona isn’t clear, but lawmakers could certainly write the provision into a bill, which would also open the door for the PGA and LPGA to ask for something similar in other states going forward.
The Broncos signed a marketing deal with FanDuel to be a betting and fantasy partner of the team. They're the first NFL team to agree to such a deal since the NFL started allowing sportsbook sponsorships.
The team is also working on a second deal with a local sportsbook.
— Nicki Jhabvala (@NickiJhabvala) June 15, 2020
FanDuel’s sports betting partnership with the Suns isn’t the company’s first with a pro team or league. The company Monday announced a partnership with the PGA Tour, and on June 15 became the first operator to sign a deal with an NFL team. FanDuel also has partnerships with the NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball, XFL, New Jersey Devils (NHL), and Madison Square Garden.
At least five other NBA teams have formed partnerships with national operators: Indiana Pacers (DraftKings, PointsBet); Philadelphia 76ers (DraftKings, Caesars Entertainment)’ Boston Celtics (DraftKings); and Denver Nuggets (PointsBet).