Arizona Bill Looks to Expand Tribal Sports Betting Licenses

Legal sports betting in Arizona went live in early September of last year. In play for the entire 2021 NFL season right through the recent Super Bowl, sports betting business has been booming all across the state.

The laws governing legal sports betting in Arizona are rather flexible. Retail sportsbooks are tied to in-state professional sports teams as well as tribal casinos. Online sports betting is available through mobile sportsbook apps.

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State Senator Pushes for Sports Betting Expansion

Heading into the 2022 Arizona legislative session, state Senator Sally Ann Gonzales has introduced Senate Bill 1674. Under the provisions of this piece of legislation, the number of licenses for native tribes with gaming interests in the state would go from 10 to 22.

Senator Gonzales is a member of the Pascua Yaqui Tribal Council. Her rational for her bill was clarified as follows:

“I’m trying again because the tribes had to compete for the 10 licenses and not the major leaguers. I had it as an amendment last year and it failed. It’s just so one-sided. My tribe didn’t get a license, so they’re out of a license and, evidently, according to what I hear, not ever going to get a license.”

Her bill has been assigned to Commerce and Rules committees. She will continue to try and raise support for the expansion plan with other interested tribes.

Arizona’s Current Sports Betting System

Legislation that was passed last spring and signed into law covered all the bases. There were 12 licenses set aside for in-state professional sports organizations. This includes pro teams such as the NFL Arizona Cardinals and the NBA’s Phoenix Suns.

These licenses also covered special events such as the recent Waste Management Phoenix Open in golf and two upcoming NASCAR races at Phoenix Raceway for the 2022 Cup Series season.

The existing 10 sports teams then formed a partnership with US sportsbook operators. BetMGM partnered with the Cardinals and FanDuel partnered with the Suns. DraftKings is tied in with TPC Scottsdale as the home course for the Phoenix Open.

Another 10 licenses were earmarked for in-state tribal casinos. Each of these tribes partnered with a US sportsbook operator to offer both retail and mobile betting. For example, San Carlos Apache Tribe partnered with WynnBET.

The Arizona Department of Gaming was put in charge of the licensing process. It has reserved the final two professional sports organizations licenses for possible future teams in the state. One example given is the Tucson Sugar Skulls as a professional indoor soccer team. The team’s stadium was just upgraded to meet the 10,000 seat requirement.

However, the tribal gaming licenses remain capped at 10. Even though there are 12 additional Arizona tribes that are officially recognized by the federal government.

Arizona Market Potential

The early results in Arizona have been impressive through the final four months of 2021 into early betting numbers in 2022.

All the major players are represented along with a few newcomers to the industry. Hard Rock Sportsbook just signed a partnership with the Navajo Nation.

There are currently six tribal applicants that were left out of that initial group of 10. Three of those tribes already have partnerships in place with sportsbook operators.

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