It looks like sports betting is coming to Arizona after a flurry of activity in the legislature on Monday.
For weeks, sports betting legalization in Arizona went undiscussed in the Senate. In fact, a bill simply sat around long enough for the Senate Appropriations Committee to withdraw the legislation April 8.
Just before the weekend, though, that measure gained new life. And now, a sports betting bill has passed the Senate. The federal government approved tribal compacts.
Sports betting in Arizona is on its way and could launch in time for the 2021 football season.
Stay here for all the latest updates and developments as regulated wagering sits at the doorstep of the Grand Canyon State.
Arizona sports betting updates
July 23, 2021
Starting Monday, the Arizona Department of Gaming will accept sports betting applications.
The ADG released its final set of draft rules Wednesday, which the regulatory body finalized and approved two days later. As such, the ADG said it will open the application process July 26.
On its surface, that would still mean regulators would need to move quickly in order to get the legal wagering industry off the ground in time for its intended Sept. 9 launch.
The last draft of rules, though, shows that the ADG expects to act at a breakneck pace.
Starting Monday, the division of gaming will accept applications for a minimum of 10 days. The following five days will feature the ADG deeming which applicants are “initially qualified” to offer legal sports betting in Arizona. Another eight days will be spent sussing out applications should the number of submissions exceed licenses available.
This means that the ADG could notify “initially qualified” applicants by Aug. 13, while approval for applications needing extra consideration could arrive by Aug. 25.
July 21, 2021
Penn Interactive, a subsidiary of Penn National Gaming, and NASCAR announced a multiyear market access partnership in Arizona. Part of the agreement authorizes Barstool, owned by PNG, to become the exclusive sportsbook of Phoenix Raceway.
In being afforded the opportunity to open retail and online sportsbooks in the Grand Canyon State, while also gaining prominent signage at the track, Barstool will “take an active role” in promoting NASCAR odds, according to the announcement, while offering “unique promotions and odds boosts.”
This agreement comes a year after Penn National became the first authorized gaming operator of NASCAR. Barstool currently has sports betting operations up in four other states with eyes to expand even more.
July 20, 2021
It appears the Yavapai-Apache Nation is ready to bring PointsBet to Arizona.
The Australia-based sportsbook partnered with Cliff Castle Casino Hotel, operated by the Yavapai-Apache, to potentially launch online and retail sportsbooks in the Grand Canyon State.
If all goes to plan, Arizona will become the 16th US jurisdiction in which PointsBet operates.
Before PointsBet Arizona can launch, of course, it must receive licensing from state regulators. While the state has carved out 10 licenses for tribal gaming operators, it’s expected that 16 tribes could apply.
As such, nothing is necessarily a given when it comes to AZ tribal sports betting partners. The Arizona Department of Gaming will determine which applicants are more qualified to offer regulated wagering.
That said, as detailed by our own Derek Helling, PointsBet certainly gives the Yavapai-Apache a leg up. After all, experience in the gaming and sports betting world is among the factors taken into account by regulators, as is the ability to launch in relatively quick order.
With PointsBet in its corner, the Yavapai-Apache could have an inside track to licensing.
July 15, 2021
After two drafts of rules for the coming Arizona sports betting industry, the Arizona Department of Gaming has finally addressed how it would consider license allocation.
While provisional, and subject to potential changes based on public input, these rules detail how regulators would decide which applicants would be authorized to offer legal sports betting should more parties apply than licenses exist.
In particular, this proposal addresses how the state would determine which tribes would receive licensing. State law carves out 10 licenses for tribes in Arizona, which features 16 tribes. So, should at least 11 tribes apply, how would regulators determine which parties qualify most?
According to the proposal, the ADG will take into account a number of factors. First and foremost, however, is the experience of applicants in gaming as well as legal sports betting. From there, regulators will assess how applicants address responsible gambling, how they contribute to communities and how ready they will be to launch sports betting in relatively quick order.
That last factor obviously favors tribes that have formed partnerships with betting operators, such as the San Carlos Apache Tribe, which teamed with Wynn Resorts to bring WynnBet to Arizona.
July 12, 2021
It is still a ways off from launching in Arizona, but DraftKings Sportsbook will have an added perk once it does, courtesy of a new deal with Major League Baseball.
The operator, which has partnered with TPC Scottsdale, expanded its existing partnership with MLB, making DraftKings a “co-exclusive” sports betting partner of the league alongside BetMGM.
Part of the deal includes a collaboration between the two parties to create a “Bet & Watch” feature integrated into the DraftKings app. According to a press release, this feature would be accessible to fans with “open and active MLB.com and DraftKings accounts.” Those viewers would be able to watch a live MLB game within the DraftKings app.
In addition, DraftKings and MLB will work on “sports betting-themed game broadcast experiences” that will exist within the MLB.TV product.
July 7, 2021
Two drafts of sports betting rules have been released, and now the second round of public feedback is in the books.
The Arizona Department of Gaming (ADG) heard from a variety of parties, including sports teams and operators.
While discussion did surround the proposed fees and tax rates for the industry, much attention was still paid to mobile betting skins. After all, during the last public comment period, stakeholders expressed an interest in having only one online skin. The latest drafts, though, allow for two online skins. The ADG, however, did not include the word “skins.” Rather, it used the term “event wagering platforms.”
This caused some confusion. Andrew Diss, representing the Arizona Coyotes, wondered if that meant both the NHL team and its AHL affiliate could brand a mobile betting app. The answer: “That’s potentially something you could do.”
Our Derek Helling detailed other concerns regarding skins, as well as the use of official league data and how the ADG will allocate sports betting licenses for tribes in Arizona.
Ted Vogt, director of the ADG, indicated that a refined draft of rules and a proposal for license allocation will come “shortly thereafter.”
July 2, 2021
The San Carlos Apache Tribe showed its interest in taking part in the Arizona sports betting industry, as the tribe partnered with Wynn Resorts to provide WynnBet access to online wagering in the Grand Canyon State.
The San Carlos Apache Tribal Gaming Enterprise, which operates the Apache Gold Casino and Apache Sky Casino, will collaborate with WynnBet in a deal that marks the first sportsbook-tribe agreement in Arizona.
The WynnBet brand has already been introduced in six other states.
With this news, the number of operators that have market access deals for sports betting in Arizona now sits at xxx:
- DraftKings (TPC Scottsdale)
- FanDuel (Phoenix Suns
- Caesars (Arizona Diamondbacks)
- Bally Bet (Phoenix Mercury)
- WynnBet (San Carlos Apache Tribe)
July 1, 2021
It seems regulators are looking to get as much out of the Arizona sports betting industry as possible.
Despite stakeholders stating during the public comment period that they would prefer one mobile skin for online wagering, the Arizona Department of Gaming (ADG) included language in its latest set of draft rules that would afford each licensee up to two skins.
As a result, the mobile betting landscape in the Grand Canyon State could feature 40 online sportsbooks.
According to the 13-page draft, license holders “may use more than one” and “up to two event wagering platforms” as approved by the ADG.
Of course, the draft set of rules included much more, including setting application fees and tax rates (otherwise known as “privilege fees”). The ADG also added credit cards and wire transfers to its list of acceptable forms of payment for betting.
The ADG will hold another public comment period through July 7. It will host a virtual hearing that morning while also accepting written feedback. The department still lists Sept. 9 as the go-live date for AZ sports betting.
June 30, 2021
It seems as if Phoenix Suns Arena will now have two retail sportsbooks once sports betting in Arizona launches.
Bally’s announced today that it has reached a deal with the Phoenix Mercury to launch a mobile betting app in the state as well as open a brick-and-mortar sportsbook at the arena, which the Mercury share with the Phoenix Suns.
You might recall that the Suns already have an agreement in place with FanDuel Sportsbook to also open a retail operation as well as roll out a betting app.
State law allows for owners of professional sports teams and facilities to apply for one of 10 sports betting licenses in Arizona. Robert Sarver owns the Suns as well as the Mercury, so it was not clear if the WNBA franchise would be able to participate in regulated wagering.
However, the law does include a provision that an already-licensed owner can appoint a designee to apply for licensing, which likely is what happened in the case of the Mercury.
As a result, pending regulatory approval, the Mercury will become the first individual women’s franchise to go all-in with legal sports betting.
June 29, 2021
The Gila River Indian Community has plans to open a fourth casino in Arizona.
In April, Gov. Doug Ducey signed off on an agreement with the state’s tribes that not only legalized sports betting in the state but also authorized the construction of at least four new casinos in the Grand Canyon State, including at least two new properties in the Phoenix metro area.
That is where the Gila River Indian Community is targeting, as the tribe intends to build the casino on community trust land just outside the southern border of Chandler. The property is expected to open within two years. Gila River also operates three casinos, two in Chandler and one in Laveen.
Among the amenities offered at the new casino is retail sports betting. While there are only 10 mobile betting licenses available for tribes in Arizona, all tribes can house brick-and-mortar sportsbooks at their casinos.
The new casino expects to cost $100 million, and the tribe could explore plans to add a hotel.
June 25, 2021
Written comments submitted to the Arizona Department of Gaming regarding the first draft of sports betting rules were released recently. And plenty of suggestions came about.
Similar to suggestions provided during virtual meetings earlier this week, much of the written feedback regarded requests for clarification.
For example, Tom Auther, owner of Arizona Downs, noted that the newly passed law authorizing Arizona sports betting requires that a racetrack partner with an event wagering operator, aka a licensee, in order to participate in regulated wagering.
Auther called this an “extremely onerous” task for racetracks, “as there is really not a large amount of money in this for us and having to negotiate with a professional team and further water down our income seems unfair.” Auther requested that the ADG eliminates that requirement.
Among the other concerns, Jordan Rose, representing Phoenix Rising FC of the United Soccer League, asked for the organization to be included as authorized professional sports teams to obtain sports betting licenses.
The law details that “professional sport” in this sense means a sport conducted at the highest level, league or organization play for its respective sport. It specifically notes baseball, basketball, football, golf, hockey, soccer and motor sports.
Rose noted that Phoenix Rising stands as the state’s highest-level pro soccer club playing a stadium with a capacity of 10,000 “with room to grow.” She conceded that it is possible to interpret the law to exclude USL teams, as Major League Soccer is obviously a superior league. But MLS doesn’t have a franchise located in Arizona, nor does it plan to for now.
Therefore, Rose said, Phoenix Rising is in fact the highest-level pro soccer team in Arizona and should be allowed to participate in legal sports betting.
Certainly more suggestions were submitted, which we outlined here.
June 24, 2021
It’s time for the Arizona Department of Gaming to reconvene and hash out its next draft of regulations for the Arizona sports betting industry. And there are some big vacancies to fill from the first draft.
The department sought feedback regarding those omitted portions of the rules, which included licensing fees, number of skins per licensee and license allocation for tribes.
During a virtual meeting with the ADG recently, stakeholders expressed an interest in just one mobile skin. In fact, that was the assumption. As Amilyn Pierce of the Arizona Diamondbacks said:
“As somebody who was involved in the conversations about the legislation, I can say with 100% certainty that it was always our belief that it would only be one skin.”
While the law says an event wagering operator “may use more than one event wagering platform,” Pierce argued this meant a licensee can use one platform for retail and a different one for mobile.
Only one speaker, Matt Olin of Apache Gaming Enterprise, favored multiple skins. If each licensee only has one, Arizona could feature up to 20 betting apps.
As for tribal license allocation, each tribe in the state can offer a retail sportsbook at its casino. For mobile, though, only 10 such licenses exist. Our Matt Kredell broke down how tribes could band together to make the most of limited online licenses.
June 22, 2021
The Arizona Department of Gaming is a step closer to finalizing rules and regulations for the Arizona sports betting industry.
A week after releasing its first draft rules, and following several days of public discussions and testimony, the ADG heads back to work to potentially nail down the regulatory framework.
While certainly a step in the right direction, Ted Vogt, director of the ADG, noted that the department will hold another brief public comment period once the ADG updates its draft. That said, confidence remains that the first sportsbooks in AZ could crop up by Sept. 9.
The initial set of draft rules had a few glaring omissions, which the department hopes to correct during its next few meetings. Those include:
- Number of skins per licensee
- Tax rate paid by operators
- License allocation
That last item mostly concerns tribal involvement. The new sports betting law authorizes 10 licenses to be doled out among Arizona’s 22 gaming tribes. Obviously, the ADG must figure out how to distribute those licenses.
What’s more, there are 10 licenses available for racetracks and off-track betting facilities, otherwise known as “limited event wagering operators.” In order to get in on the action, those properties have to align with one of the 20 event wagering operators in the state. Details of this aspect of the industry, however, are still being developed.
Regardless of how much work is left on the department’s plate, it is taking a step in the right direction. And even with another public comment period awaiting, it has not deterred regulators from keeping the confidence of a Sept. 9 kickoff for Arizona sports betting.
June 18, 2021
According to the Arizona Department of Gaming, tribes in the Grand Canyon State made nearly $33.8 million in gaming contributions to the Arizona Benefits Fund during the fourth quarter of the state’s 2021 fiscal year.
That total represents a 32% increase compared with the same quarter in the fiscal year 2020.
|Instructional Improvement Fund/Education||$17,012,363|
|Trauma and Emergency Services Fund||$8,506,181|
|Arizona Department of Gaming operating costs||$2,737,248|
|Arizona Wildlife Conservation Fund||$2,430,337|
|Problem Gambling Education, Treatment and Prevention||$675,846|
Ted Vogt, director of the ADG, emphasized how that total is obviously beneficial to Arizona but also reflects the state of tribal gaming.
“Not only is it clear that Arizona Tribal gaming has had a strong rebound, each of these additional gaming dollars will help support vital programs throughout the state like schools, trauma centers, wildlife conservation and more.”
Tribes operating casinos in Arizona contribute a percentage of their gross gaming revenue to the state, cities, towns and counties.
June 15, 2021
Nearly 24 hours exactly after the Arizona Department of Gaming said it was still working, the department released draft rules for sports betting in the Grand Canyon State.
The 13-page document provides an overall outline as to what the state’s sports betting industry might look like, although few details are actually revealed. For example, the ADG did not specify how much licensing fees would cost operators nor did it mention the monthly tax rate.
In addition, the regulatory body noted that each licensee would need to submit lists of events it would like to offer betting markets on and await ADG approval. What’s more, when it comes to the use of official league data, operators would need to request the use of “non-official data.”
Along with the draft rules, the ADG included feedback forms, as the public comment period has officially begun. According to the department, the final hearing for this window is June 21. From there, the department would reconvene and make amendments as needed.
June 14, 2021
The start of the third week of June was supposed to bring us the first drafted rules and regulations for the Arizona sports betting industry.
The Arizona Department of Gaming, though, is still working on that task.
The regulatory body took to Twitter at the end of the business day and noted that it is “finalizing details for draft event wagering rules to ensure completeness and accuracy, which will be available for public comment when this process is complete.”
That public comment period was expected to begin June 14 and last a week. After that, the Department of Gaming can amend rules as necessary and then begin reviewing operator applications. Regulators still expect to launch AZ sports betting by Sept. 9.
June 10, 2021
Gila River Hotels & Casinos has introduced a new amenity to its gaming offerings.
The free-to-play social casino PlayGila launched recently, the product of a partnership between Gila River and gaming software provider GAN.
Visitors to Gila River properties can access the social casino via any mobile device and play games such as slots, blackjack, roulette, video poker and other casino games.
While players cannot win real money playing these free games, they can pile up rewards that can be redeemed at any of the three Gila River casinos.
June 3, 2021
When the 2021 NFL season kicks off between the Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, bettors in Arizona could have access to the state’s first legal wagering options.
In an updated timeline, the Arizona Department of Gaming indicated that the state is on track to approve and roll out the first AZ sportsbooks by Sept. 9, the date of the first NFL regular-season game.
This comes as welcome news, certainly. Just over a week ago, the US Department of the Interior signed off on renewed compacts between Arizona and tribes operating casinos in the state. A few weeks earlier, three sports betting operators landed partners to introduce their sportsbooks in Arizona.
On top of the timeline announcement, the Arizona Department of Gaming noted that it should complete its process of drafting rules and regulations for the industry by June 14, thus opening up a public comment period. Once that weeklong timeframe concludes, regulators can amend and finalize rules as necessary.
June 2, 2021
Nearly a month has passed since two professional teams and a pro facility (TPC Scottsdale) locked up sports betting partners in Arizona. The waiting game continues for the next domino to fall. And speculation abounds as to which piece it will be.
One legal betting operator, BetMGM, may have an inside track to teaming with the Arizona Coyotes, simply by existing associations within the NHL.
For starters, in 2018, the league brought in MGM Resorts International as an official sports betting partner. What’s more, MGM holds a prominent presence in Las Vegas, home of Coyotes division rival Golden Knights. The company owns T-Mobile Arena, which itself is surrounded by MGM properties.
Then today, BetMGM signed NHL legend Wayne Gretzky as a brand ambassador. Obviously the Great One’s legacy ties back to his playing days with Edmonton, Los Angeles, St. Louis and the New York Rangers.
But, if you recall, Gretzky bought a 10% stake in the then-Phoenix Coyotes shortly after retiring in 2000. He later became the team’s head coach in 2005, a position he held until 2009 while amassing a 143-161-24 record.
Certainly, MGM will be looking for an access point to launch BetMGM in Arizona. With such strong roots in the sport already, it would make sense for the brand to partner with the Arizona Coyotes.
June 1, 2021
The Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe has picked back up on its plans to open a new casino in Prescott at the junction of Highway 69 and Yavpe Connector.
Initially started in 2014, the new casino plans have stalled. But with Arizona expanding legal gambling this year, the tribe now has some urgency to get property up and running. As Bob Ogo, president of the tribe’s board of directors, said: “The gaming market in Arizona is changing and the tribe is preparing for the future.”
The Yavapai already owns Bucky’s and Yavapai casinos. Seven years ago, the idea was for this new property to replace the other two. There has been no confirmation as to whether that remains the case.
If the tribe sticks with all three casinos, the Yavapai will certainly be a tribe to watch as the state has allotted 10 sports betting licenses for Arizona tribes.
May 24, 2021
The tribal compact expanding gaming and legalizing sports betting received federal approval, putting the ball back in the state’s court to navigate from law to launch. The next step is for the Arizona Department of Gaming to start drafting the first round of regulations and release them to the public for feedback.
In actuality, the department has already been hard at work on regulations, so expect that first draft to hit the public sooner rather than later. Usually, states allow for a 60-90 day comment period to generate feedback. At that pace, final regs could be in place by the end of the summer.
What does that mean for launch? It keeps Arizona on pace to launch retail sportsbooks in time for football season. Moreover, if the Dept. of Gaming can act quickly, it keeps online betting launch happening in 2021 as a possibility.
May 18, 2021
The Arizona Coyotes and Gila River Hotels & Casinos provided a helping hand to the Arizona homeless earlier this month.
The philanthropic arms of each party, the Arizona Coyotes Foundation and Gila River Cares, teamed up to present a $50,000 check to Human Services Campus Inc., a nonprofit committed to helping individuals experiencing homelessness. In addition, Gila River donated 4,000 towels, all part of the global initiative “Pay It Forward Day.”
Human Services Campus operates a 13-acre campus in Phoenix that also features 16 independent nonprofit organizations providing resources to the homeless. On a nightly basis, according to a count by Point-in-Time in January 2020, some 7,500 individuals experience homelessness in the county, including 3,700 that do not have shelter.
With the donation, Human Services Campus can help stem that rise. The nonprofit will be able to enhance the likes of temporary shelter, behavioral health services, housing navigation and day-to-day campus operations.
May 6, 2021
Another pro team has found its sports betting partner, as the Arizona Diamondbacks teamed with Caesars Entertainment to not only launch a mobile betting app in the state but also open a retail sportsbook at Chase Field.
Caesars will build a “first-class sportsbook and bar concept on the plaza adjacent to the team’s home,” according to a press release. The space, which will also include a broadcast studio, will exist at a location formerly known as Game Seven Grill.
In addition to the agreement with the Diamondbacks, Caesars also finalizes a multi-year agreement with Major League Baseball to become an “Authorized Gaming Operator of the league.”
Caesars will integrate its Caesars Rewards loyalty program that will allow bettors to earn credits and redeem them for experiences like entertainment, food and beverage and gaming experiences like VIP seating at a Diamondbacks game.
April 21, 2021
A “tentative rule drafting and operational timeline” emerged out of the Arizona Department of Gaming, which will act as the primary regulator for sports betting in Arizona.
While the ADG noted that it has not determined a tentative start date for the industry, it did provide some insight into the steps necessary before AZ sports betting can go live.
The department noted it has begun drafting rules for the industry and will spend 60 days creating a regulatory framework. After a public comment period, the ADG will amend rules as necessary and then prepare for an operational start date. However, Arizona sports betting cannot begin until the federal government looks over the amended tribal-state compacts. The US Department of Interior Office of Indian Gaming has 45 days to review and approve the compacts, followed by up to 90 days for the Federal Register to publish them.
April 15, 2021
A day after DraftKings gained market access to Arizona, FanDuel did the same.
FanDuel Group and the Phoenix Suns entered into a multi-year partnership that tabs FanDuel as the team’s “Official Sportsbook and Daily Fantasy Sports Partner.” This will allow the operator to set up a retail FanDuel Sportsbook inside the Phoenix Suns Arena, which is expected to open in time for the 2021-22 NBA season.
As expected, Gov. Doug Ducey signed into law a bill to legalize sports betting in Arizona. The governor also signed off on an amended tribal-state gaming compact to complete the process. The countdown to Arizona sports betting launch has officially begun.
April 14, 2021
DraftKings became the first sports betting operator to officially gain access to the coming Arizona sports betting market, announcing a deal with the PGA Tour and TPC Scottsdale to bring DraftKings Sportsbook to the course that hosts the ever-popular Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Taking advantage of soon-to-be-signed legislation that allows venues to partner with sports betting operators, DraftKings will create a “19th Hole” experience that features eating, drinking and gambling. The sportsbook will be open to the public year-round.
The first official betting partner of the PGA Tour in 2020, DraftKings did not reveal plans of where the brick-and-mortar will be located. But as our Eric Ramsey noted, the iconic 16th hole is not a bad place to start.
April 12, 2021
And that was (relatively) quick. The Senate moves the bill to third reading and votes instead on the identical House Bill 2772, passing it by the needed two-thirds majority. It passed 23-6, with one no vote.
The bill now heads back to Gov. Doug Ducey, who has previously indicated his desire to sign it. It appears sports betting is coming to Arizona.
After a series of amendments were considered, the Senate only amended the sports betting bill to match the House version.
That sets up the Senate for a final up-down vote on the bill, possibly later this evening.
The sports betting legislation hit the Senate floor. The conversation opened with a discussion on several amendments, including several from Sen. Sally Ann Gonzales. Her amendments aimed primarily to protect tribal exclusivity of gambling in the state. One amendment also included a ban on college sports betting.
She also stated she believed 17 of the 23 tribes affected by the sports betting bill will be adversely economically affected by the legislation given their rural locations and other considerations. Additionally, she stated the governor-appointed Executive Director of Indian Gaming Ted Vogt had far too much power under this bill.
All were defeated on the floor.
Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita proposed two different amendments about where state revenue from sports betting would go. The first amendment is to flag an unspecified percentage of money to help supplement school teacher salaries. The second amendment similarly asked for 10% of sportsbook tax money be used for nonpartisan voter outreach.
Both of those amendments failed as well.
Ugenti-Rita also proposed an amendment expanding the scope of non-tribal licenses beyond the 10 allocated for sports franchises and arenas. She suggested a more open application process to any qualified entities versus a pre-selected group of people. A Senate vote defeated that measure as well.
The Senate Rules Committee advanced SB 1797 without opposition. In fact, the committee took only a few minutes to do so before adjourning, no doubt so the legislation could make its way to the entire Senate later in the day.
SB 1797 would legalize online sports betting and allow the issuance of up to 10 licenses for sportsbooks at or near stadiums, race tracks, and golf courses. So, for example, if you were at Chase Field to watch the Arizona Diamondbacks, you could potentially have access to brick-and-mortar sports betting at the site.
Another 10 licenses would go to tribes in Arizona that express interest in opening retail sportsbooks or operating an online sportsbook outside of tribal land. Tribes that want to obtain sports betting licenses must agree to new compacts with the state. The proposed tax rate for the bill is at least 8%.