On Sept. 9, 2021, sports betting became legal in Arizona. And after only six months, the Grand Canyon State is quickly proving to be a powerhouse in the industry.
After launch day, the milestones started dropping like flies. Arizona sportsbooks enjoyed a busy debut month with nearly $300 million in wagers in September. The state reached $1 billion in wagering after only three months.
If the first six months are any indication, Arizona online sports betting is in for a great stretch once the first anniversary rolls around this fall.
Sports betting thrives early in Arizona
In April of 2021, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed the bill legalizing sports betting, which the state’s legislature passed. Ducey also signed the compacts he worked out with tribal nations to modernize gaming in the state.
Thanks to the new law, 10 tribes and eight sports entities received event wagering licenses. Arizona’s sportsbooks generated $1.7 billion in wagering and $161.1 million in gross revenue through four months.
Arizona Department of Gaming Director Ted Vogt spoke with PlayAZ about the state’s sixth month anniversary of legal sports wagering. He says the industry has started very strong.
“Those are great figures to see. It really shows the excitement in Arizona and the enthusiasm for sports betting.”
Vogt added the sudden boom of the Arizona sports betting market has surpassed the ADG’s expectations:
“It’s actually exceeded the numbers that we were expecting. I think if you look back at the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, they estimated that once the market was fully developed here in Arizona we’d probably see about $15 million annually from the industry. And we’ve already exceeded that in the first four months that we have numbers for.”
AZ sportsbooks have helped bring in approximately $14 million in license fees and around $6 million in privilege fees for the state. That easily passes that $15 million number from September 2021 to December 2021 alone.
It is important to note that these numbers only reflect the nine online operators that were live by the end of 2021. Since the start of 2022, eight more launched. Meaning the numbers we’ve seen from the latest revenue reports are only the tip of the iceberg.
First 6 months of legal AZ sports betting
To say that September was a perfect time to start up sports betting in a state would be an understatement. Arizona sports bettors were able to place bets on the same day the 2021 NFL season kicked off.
Football is the No. 1 most bet on sport in the US. According to WynnBet Sportsbook, more people bet on NFL games than any other sport holding 28.8% of WynnBet’s handle in 2021. College football was second with 19.2% of the handle.
In the fall, folks in Arizona experienced a treat after the Arizona Cardinals got off to a scorching hot start. The Cards were the last unbeaten team starting the year 7-0. Those early returns netted Cardinals bettors in Arizona huge upset wins over teams like the Tennesse Titans and the Los Angeles Rams.
Despite a disappointing end to the season, bettors in Arizona still got to enjoy several major events over the past six months.
Starting with the World Series that saw the Atlanta Braves knock off the Houston Astros. There was also a fantastic College Football National Championship game, with Georgia finally beating Alabama. There was arguably the greatest NFL postseason we’ve ever seen. The playoffs were filled with memorable games coming down to the wire. And the NFL season ended with the Rams beating the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI.
Over these last six months, gamblers have continued to “Rally The Valley” as the Phoenix Suns look to avenge last year’s NBA Finals loss. Led by Devin Booker and Chris Paul, the Suns have the best record in the NBA and should carry the Arizona sports betting market this summer.
What’s next for sports betting in Arizona?
The future of Arizona sports betting appears to be in good shape. Sports betting apps are continuing to come online. Retail sportsbooks are popping up at several sports venues. Tribal casinos are also taking advantage and opening up retail sportsbooks at their facilities.
The possibility remains that we could see more licenses become available in the years to come. However, the ADG says that will be up to the Arizona legislature.
“That’s really a question that has to be considered by the lawmakers, the Governor’s Office and certainly the tribes,” said Vogt. “the legislation that was passed last year that allowed fantasy sports and event wagering in the state was part and parcel with the gaming compacts. So there’s a lot of policy issues there.”
One Arizona lawmaker, Sen. Sally Ann Gonzales, recently questioned the fairness of the state’s sports betting law for Native American tribes. She has introduced Senate Bill 1674, which calls for two key changes. Increase mobile sports betting licenses available to tribes from 10 to 22, allowing every tribe in Arizona the opportunity to participate. It would also allow tribes to place retail sportsbooks within a five-block radius of a sports facility or complex.
There are still questions about exactly what the future of sports betting in Arizona will look like. However, ADG Director Vogt says that the sky’s the limit.
“We’ve certainly been bolstered by a lot of Arizona teams having great seasons last fall. It’ll be very interesting to see what happens during March Madness. I think it’s a very strong industry and it’s only going to get stronger.”