Arizona Regulators Post Proposed Procedures For Allocation Of Sports Betting Licenses

Written By Derek Helling on July 15, 2021 - Last Updated on January 30, 2023
A proposed protocol for Arizona betting license allocation procedures is ready for public comment after regulators posted it online.

One of the biggest outstanding questions in regard to what Arizona sports betting will look like is how the state will decide which applicants get licenses and which applicants might be disappointed.

There are now answers – albeit preliminary ones – to that question in the form of Arizona betting license allocation procedures.

A new addition to the draft regulations for AZ sports betting lays out the proposed course of action. Depending on interpretation, the language might favor tribal casino operators who partner with sportsbook operators over those who intend to build out their own platforms.

What do the Arizona betting license allocation procedures look like?

Again, it’s important to remember that all this language is provisional right now. The AZ Dept. of Gaming is holding a public comment opportunity on Friday at 10 a.m. PT to allow interested parties to weigh in. This new part of the draft regulations isn’t too long.

Essentially, it lays out the evaluation criteria the Department should consider in the event that there are more qualified applicants than available licenses. That’s most likely to happen among the state’s tribal casino operators.

The new AZ law allocates 10 licenses for them. However, there are 23 Indigenous peoples groups that have a current compact with AZ. There’s no guarantee that 11 or more of them would even apply for licenses, much less qualify. If that’s the case, then this section of the proposed rules is moot.

In the event that at least 11 of the compact holders do qualify, then regulators have some decisions to make. The rules give some insight as to which parties might have an edge.

Experience counts in this regard

The first two criteria for an evaluation in choosing an applicant involve the experience of the applicants. Others include the applicants’ histories with responsible gaming, contributions to their communities, and readiness to accept wagers. In terms of sports betting, most AZ tribal casino operators are bereft of experience.

However, a couple have a solid connection to other parties with a wealth of experience. That includes the Ak-Chin Indian Community, which operates the Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino near Maricopa. Harrah’s is a Caesars Entertainment brand. Caesars has run a sportsbook under its own branding for decades and also recently acquired William Hill’s operations.

Another tribal operator with an obvious sports betting connection is the San Carlos Apache Tribe. That Tribe runs the Apache Gold and Apache Sky casinos near, appropriately, San Carlos. Earlier this month, it partnered with WynnBet Sportsbook.

There is still time for other hopefuls to form similar alignments. Having a partner like Caesars or WynnBet will likely strengthen bids should there be a competition. It isn’t a foregone conclusion that other operators are knocking at casinos’ doors, though.

Which parties might still come into the fold in AZ?

Other potential partners that have not yet announced market access for Arizona include:

There are other potential partners for those operators besides tribal casinos. The state has allocated a total of 10 other licenses for sports entertainment enterprises in the state. While the Arizona Diamondbacks, Phoenix Mercury, Phoenix Suns, and TPC Scottsdale have already announced partners, other possibilities remain, such as the:

Thus, even if all those parties qualify for licenses, more could remain unclaimed in this category still. At this point, AZ law does not allow regulators to any of these outstanding licenses to tribal applicants. For that reason, some tribal casinos could be left on the outside looking in. This document gives those groups some idea of how to avoid that scenario.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a lead writer for PlayUSA and the manager of BetHer. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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