Live Updates: Arizona Sports Betting Bill Passes Senate

Posted on April 12, 2021 - Last Updated on June 18, 2021

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

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
Tourism 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

12:30 p.m.

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.

11:30 a.m.

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

4:30 a.m.

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

7 p.m.

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.

6 p.m.

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.

5 p.m.

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.

1 p.m.

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%.

Photo by AP / Ross D. Franklin
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