Prepare To Set Your Lineups: AZ Sports Betting Bill Legalizes Daily Fantasy Sports

Written By Martin Harris on April 22, 2021 - Last Updated on January 30, 2023

Fireworks went off midway through April.

Just days after lawmakers advanced legislation to legalize sports betting in Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey signed off on that bill. But the bill doesn’t only green-light regulated wagering. It also legalizes daily fantasy sports in the state.

That’s a notable development for DFS players, considering Arizona has been one of the few states that explicitly prohibited fantasy sports. That will all change soon.

New Arizona law legalizes fantasy sports, keno

The new sports betting bill finally came together following successful negotiations between the state and Arizona tribes. At last week’s signing ceremony, Ducey also signed new compacts with the tribes, now revised to outline their participation in sports betting going forward.

For the tribes, there will be up to 10 licenses available for both retail and mobile sports betting. Up to 10 more licenses will be available to the state’s professional sports franchises and facilities.

Horse racing tracks will be able to apply for up to 10 more sports betting licenses, albeit for retail wagering only.

Much work remains, including the creation of rules and regulations for sports betting by the Arizona Department of Gaming. Many hope, however, such details can be hammered out in time for the 2021 NFL season in September.

The bill, HB 2772, additionally authorizes regulators to issue fantasy sports licenses as well as to establish rules and fees. The bill further allows certain locations, include off-track betting sites and social clubs, to offer keno games.

Close to two dozen states have passed legislation explicitly legalizing fantasy sports. Other states have no specific law regarding it, although in those cases, DFS sites tend to operate anyway.

Meanwhile, seven US states regard fantasy sports as illegal. Arizona had been one of those jurisdictions, meaning fantasy sports sites have excluded residents from participating in their games.

Arizona had been off-limits for daily fantasy sports sites

Unlike some states, Arizona did not pass specific legislation declaring fantasy sports to be illegal. But prior to last week, the state’s gambling law had been widely interpreted to consider fantasy sports illegal. As a result, DFS sites have avoided accepting wagers from Arizona.

In 1998, then-Attorney General Grant Woods weighed in on fantasy sports with an opinion they constituted illegal gambling. This was more than a decade before the first online daily fantasy sports sites began to emerge and DFS became a national phenomenon.

FanDuel first launched its daily fantasy sports site in 2009, with DraftKings following in 2012. Both sites initially accepted Arizona customers.

However, in late 2015, then-Attorney General Mark Brnovich sent letters to DraftKings and FanDuel containing a message that led both sites to stop accepting players from Arizona.

“Participation in your games for monetary winnings violates Arizona law.”

DraftKings, FanDuel poised and ready for DFS in AZ

Both DraftKings and FanDuel have each already secured a position in the new sports betting landscape in Arizona.

DraftKings signed a partnership with TPC Scottsdale to run a sportsbook there once the golf course obtains a license to do so. Soon after, FanDuel Arizona and the Phoenix Suns announced a similar agreement just after last week’s bill signing, positioning FanDuel to operate a future sportsbook at the Phoenix Sun Arena.

It is safe to say DraftKings, FanDuel and other daily fantasy sports sites will soon become active again in Arizona. Most expect fantasy sports licenses to be issued and guidelines established more quickly than will occur with sports betting.

It may be ambitious to think sports betting will be live in Arizona by September. However, it is probably a better bet that Arizonans will be able to start setting lineups and entering them into DFS contests in time for the NFL season.

Photo by AP / Rick Scuteri
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