gamblers

With companies like Caesars, FanDuel and Penn National Gaming building out sportsbooks at professional sports venues across the Valley, fantasy sports betting already has come to Arizona with betting on games arriving Sept. 9.

Only a last-minute effort by the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe stood in the way of sports betting going live that day. A hearing on a request for an emergency injunction is Sept. 3.

Assuming the judge does not grant the request, Arizona is poised to become the biggest state in the West to launch live sports betting since the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in May 2018. 

The Arizona Department of Gaming is targeting the first day of the NFL season to launch the first operators. Many of the biggest, most well-known sports betting operators will be offering odds and taking bets.

The Arizona launch will be the fourth in the United States this year — unless either Wyoming or South Dakota, both of which are also moving toward offering live sports betting, get there first. 

In January, operators went live online in Michigan and Virginia, and two North Carolina tribal casinos began taking bets in March. 

As legal sports betting has spread from Nevada to more than 30 other U.S. jurisdictions in the last three years, the western states have been a little behind the curve. And where sports betting is available, it’s not widely available.

 Lawmakers in Washington State legalized sports betting in March 2020 at brick-and-mortar locations only. The state regulator expects the first bets to be taken before the end of 2021.

Live wagering west of the Mississippi is up and running in six states. In-person wagering is available at a handful of tribal sportsbooks in Oregon and New Mexico as well as at lottery-run kiosks throughout Montana  and in person at a handful of Arkansas venues. 

Consumers can wager on professional sports online/mobile in Oregon via the state’s lottery platform. 

Statewide mobile wagering is available in Colorado, Iowa and Nevada, but the Arizona launch represents only the third new open, competitive marketplace west of the Mississippi since PAPSA was overturned. 

 

Big population excites operators

With a population of just over 7 million, it doesn’t hurt that the state is home to a professional sports team from each of the four major leagues, hosts NASCAR events, is a PGA Tour stop and has a passionate college football fanbase. 

In all, eight sports organizations have received licenses. So too have 10 Arizona tribes after beating out six other tribes that had been competing for licenses.

“We are very excited about the future in Arizona. During the NBA playoffs, the world learned that the state has one of the most passionate fan bases in the country,” said Matt Prevost, chief revenue officer at BetMGM.

BetMGM has formed a partnership with the Arizona Cardinals. 

It also had partnered with the Gila River Indian Community, which was not listed by the state as a winning applicant to run mobile sports betting off reservation. 

However, Arizona Gaming Department spokesperson Maxwell Hartgraves said all tribes can offer sports betting at their casinos.

 The amended tribal-state gaming compacts that were signed by Gov. Doug Ducey and Arizona tribes earlier this year included the ability for tribes to offer a variety of new casino games such as craps and roulette as well as sports betting, Hartgraves said.

“With that comes a lot of expectations, and we look forward to delivering an above-and-beyond sports betting experience with unique mobile and retail activations throughout the state,” Prevost said.

Arizona’s new law allows for a maximum 20 “event wagering operator” licenses, divided evenly among tribal casinos and professional sports teams/franchises.

Those with a license will be able to operate at least one retail sportsbook and up to two digital platforms. There are an additional 10 retail-only licenses available for the state’s horse racetracks and OTBs. 

Consumers will be able to wager on professional, college and Olympic sports. The new law is broad enough that operators may ultimately be able to offer betting on things like the Academy Awards, Heisman Trophy and other events that are not tied to sports. 

 

Major operators

have partners

While Arizona will ultimately offer consumers myriad choices in who to bet with, the design of the law means that some tribal casinos won’t be able to offer sports betting. 

The ADG approved daily fantasy operators to go live Aug. 28. Those that are licensed must also have received approval for internal controls and house rules from the ADG. They include DraftKings, FanDuel, FFPC, Yahoo!, Fantasy Sports Shark and Underdog Sports.

 In addition, approved event wagering operators already can offer consumers the chance to create and fund accounts. Approved operators can also begin marketing to consumers. 

Licenses sports teams and their partners include Arizona Cardinals (BetMGM), Arizona Diamondbacks (William Hill), Phoenix Suns (FanDuel), Arizona Coyotes, Phoenix Mercury (Ballys), TPC Scottsdale (DraftKings), Phoenix Speedway (Penn National) and Arizona Rattlers (Rush Street Interactive).

Operators have plans for brick-and-mortar sportsbooks at professional venues — and some are also entitled to open a second location within a set distance of the stadium. 

FanDuel has already released renderings of a modern, state-of-the-art facility in the works at the Footprint Center, while Caesars has plans to begin offering in-person wagering via kiosks at Chase Field as soon as possible.

 For the most part, operators plan to launch their mobile platforms on Sept. 9, with brick-and-mortars to follow. 

Tribes that have received licenses include Fort Mojave Indian Tribe (SuperBook Sports), Navajo Nation, Quechan Tribe (Unibet Arizona), Tonto Apache Tribe (Churchill Downs), Tohono O’odham Nation, Hualapai Tribe (Golden Nugget), Ak-Chin Indian Community, San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe (Digital Gaming), San Carlos Apache Tribe (Wynn) and Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation.

Arizona is among the first U.S. jurisdictions in which sportsbooks will exist at professional sports venues. 

Washington, D.C.’s Capital One Arena became the first pro venue in the country to accept wagers when it began doing so in the summer of 2020.

And as of now, only Washington, D.C.; Illinois; Maryland and Arizona allow for sportsbooks in arenas. There are two open in Washington, since the BetMGM began accepting bets at Nationals Field earlier this year. 

– Jill R. Dorson is the managing editor at sportshandle.com, a national sports betting website that focuses on sports betting legislation and regulation.