Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, Other Lawmakers Seek Expanded Gambling In New Tribal Deal

Written By Martin Harris on February 9, 2021 - Last Updated on February 11, 2021

California has long paid notice to its neighbor Nevada when it comes to the goings-on in the gambling industry. Its other neighbor, Arizona, may require even more attention going forward soon as well. Particularly when it comes to sports betting.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has long indicated a desire to expand gambling in his state. New legislation introduced by Arizona lawmakers would help do just that.

The new bill would also fit with Ducey’s larger plan to reimagine the state’s agreements with the Native American tribes who currently drive gambling in the Grand Canyon State.

Ducey’s vision includes not only providing new types of gambling to Arizonans but also allowing more operators to offer it. The new House bill would help that happen, should it become law.

Arizona House bill would add sports betting, DFS, keno

On Monday Arizona House Rep. Jeff Weninger introduced HB 2772. In doing so, Weninger was joined by several co-sponsors, including those from both major parties.

Among its provisions, the bill would legalize both retail and online sports betting in the state. Arizona’s federally recognized tribes could open sportsbooks in their casinos and launch and operate online sportsbooks as well. The tribes could obtain up to 10 sports betting licenses.

The bill would further permit regulators to issue up to 10 more sports betting licenses to other “commercial sports entities” in the state. These would include professional franchises like the Arizona Diamondbacks and Arizona Cardinals.

Professional sports leagues that hold events in the state such as the PGA Tour and NASCAR would also be eligible to apply for the additional licenses. Like the tribes’ licenses, these licenses would also allow operators to offer both retail and online sports betting.

HB 2772 would further authorize the issuing of licenses to operators of fantasy sports. It would also permit off-track betting locations to begin offering keno.

The Arizona Department of Gaming would oversee all of the new licenses for sports betting, fantasy sports, and keno. The department would set the application and renewal fees as well as determine how the new revenue would be taxed.

Arizona gambling expansion requires tribes’ approval

Weninger’s bill arrives amid a larger, ongoing discussion about the future of gambling in Arizona. That’s because the state is currently renegotiating its 20-year compacts with the tribes set to expire in 2022.

As the Associated Press explained, for HB 2772 to move forward, the new compacts will explicitly need to accommodate for the expansion of gambling to the other non-tribal commercial entities the bill describes. That’s because the original tribal-state compacts specifically prevent the state from permitting sports betting or any other new type of gambling outside of the tribal’s purview.

Ducey has been already working on the revised agreement with tribal leaders for some time.

While the tribes wish to maintain their prominent role in the industry, they have indicated a willingness to allow the other entities to conduct sports betting should the state allow the tribes to offer more games at their casinos, including baccarat and craps.

The tribes would also like to be able to build more casinos. Ducey has indicated a willingness to go along with both of those ideas in the new compacts.

Much remains to be hammered out with regard to the future gambling in Arizona. That said, it appears likely that changes are coming in 2021.

Photo by AP / Ross D. Franklin
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