Arizona Regulators Target Start Of NFL Season For Sports Betting Kickoff

Written By Martin Harris on June 4, 2021 - Last Updated on February 28, 2022
The NFL's opening day on Sept. 9 is the target for sports betting to go live in Arizona.

The 2021 National Football League regular season begins on Thursday, Sept. 9. That’s the day the Dallas Cowboys and defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers will compete in the NFL Kickoff Game.

By then Arizona hopes as well to be able to kick off a new era of sports betting in the state. As the Arizona Department of Gaming indicates in their announced timeline, the NFL’s opening day is the target for sports betting to go live in the state.

Legislation passed and compacts approved, but work remains

Much has happened already, although there are still a few hurdles to get beyond before sports betting can go live in Arizona. That said, the highest and most difficult of those hurdles have already been cleared.

Gov. Doug Ducey signed both the new gambling expansion legislation into law and the amended compacts with the tribes on April 15.

The new law authorizes up to 10 sports betting licenses (retail and mobile) to tribes. The law authorizes another 10 licenses for the state’s professional sports franchises and venues. Tribes that operate multiple casinos can operate multiple sportsbooks under the same license. In addition, horse tracks will be able to apply for “limited” licenses that permit on-site, retail sports betting only.

The newly amended compacts required federal approval as well. To that end, they were submitted to the Department of the Interior‘s Bureau of Indian Affairs.

That process might have taken a long time, given that the Bureau of Indian Affairs had 45 days to review and approve, then the Federal Register another 90 days after that to publish the new compacts and make them official. However that process moved rapidly, with the amended compacts published on May 24.

Announced timeline covers public comment period, operational start date

Meanwhile Arizona regulators continue the work of drafting of rules and regulations. Such guidelines are needed for both fantasy sports and traditional sports betting (or “event wagering”).

When Gov. Ducey signed the new gambling legislation into law, that act commenced a 60-day period during which regulators must complete their drafting of rules. That deadline is fast approaching, with June 14 the day by which the rules draft should be complete.

A public comment period follows during which all Arizonans can share their opinions about the rules. The public will have one week to do so, with the comment period ending June 21.

After that, regulators will be able to make amendments and finalize the rules. The start of the NFL season remains a desired date to launch the first sportsbooks, with Sept. 9 the listed target for an operational start date.

Partnerships forming, operators hustle to line up for AZ kickoff

Of course, all potential operators will need to obtain licenses to offer sports betting in Arizona. Thus will the application and approval process for licenses have to complete before any wagering can occur.

Partnerships have already formed indicating which operators may be ready once the whistle blows and sports betting begins in AZ.

The Phoenix Suns have partnered with FanDuel Sportsbook, Caesars has done the same with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and DraftKings has made an agreement with the TPC Scottsdale golf complex. Tribes seeking to add sportsbooks to their casinos have likewise begun the process of establishing similar partnerships.

Other sports betting providers appear likely to expand into Arizona as well, including BetMGM Sportsbook, WynnBet, theScore, William Hill Sportsbook, FOX Bet, Barstool, and PointBet all possible candidates.

In other words, NFL teams won’t be the only ones working hard to ready themselves before the Cowboys and Bucs convene for this year’s NFL Kickoff Game.

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