The countdown to legal sports betting in Arizona has reached mere hours.
Nearly five months after Gov. Doug Ducey signed legislation and amended tribal compacts to clear the path for regulated wagering in the Grand Canyon State, the industry is set to go live Sept. 9 — just in time for the first game of the NFL season.
Of course, the road here had its potholes, arguably none potentially more disastrous than a lawsuit filed by the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe. Yet the state came out the other side unscathed. And as a result, legalized sports betting remains on track for launch.
Future of AZ sports betting uncertain heading into Labor Day
Labor Day weekend proved just that for the Arizona Department of Gaming and Ducey, both of which were named in a lawsuit filed by the Yavapai-Prescott. The tribe called into question the constitutionality of the passage of sports betting legislation and requested that a court issue a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction on the industry’s launch.
Certainly this caused some consternation for sports betting stakeholders in the state. Yet they maintained optimism and forged ahead, confident that Arizona would still go live with regulated wagering on Sept. 9.
“From our standpoint, our goal was to get operationally ready to go by Sept. 9,” said Maxwell Hartgraves, public information officer for the ADG. “We can’t control that part of it (the lawsuit), but we can control what we’re doing to prepare for Sept. 9. For us, that was our goal. Nothing else really fazed that. Obviously, if something happened and we had to postpone that, that’s a different story. But obviously, that’s not necessarily that case.”
Indeed, on Monday, Maricopa County Super Court Judge James Smith ruled against the Yavapai-Prescott.
“The Tribe argued that the hardship is losing the ‘exclusive right to gaming on Indian lands’ under Proposition 202. But Proposition 202 did not purport to freeze in perpetuity the scope of lawful gambling in Arizona.”
“From our standpoint, it was kind of business as usual,” Hartgraves said. “Well, maybe not ‘business as usual.’ Very busy business, just getting it ready to go. That goal (Sept. 9) never really changed.”
Clear path for Sept. 9 launch of AZ sports betting
Following Smith’s ruling, something of a revitalized confidence and energy permeated proponents of legal sports betting in Arizona. It wasn’t as if there was any doubt in their minds that the industry wouldn’t go live Sept. 9. But Monday’s decision cleared obstruction from meeting that goal. Now, it’s relatively smooth sailing to launch.
“At the end of the day, all the department could do is prepare all we could,” Hartgraves said. “And from a legal standpoint, we had to go through that legal process. It’s just kind of, ‘Let’s see what happens.’ And not we can continue to move forward.”
In the interim, the ADG continues to prepare operators for rolling out their mobile betting apps in Arizona. The department, specifically the Event Wagering & Fantasy Sports team, will review internal controls of operators. It continues to receive and compile catalogs of proposed sports and betting markets to be offered by sportsbooks in Arizona.
“There’s plenty of work to be done,” Hartgraves assured. “We’re dealing with all these operators and trying to get them ready to go so when 12:01 hits, there’s nothing in their way.”
One minute into Sept. 9, betting apps in the Grand Canyon State can go live with their products. By the time most Arizonans awake, they can pull out their mobile devices and get their NFL betting action in for the day. For months, lawmakers, regulators and stakeholders have toiled away, working toward a Sept. 9 launch. In mere hours, the culmination of those efforts will emerge.
“Obviously there’s some stress; there’s a lot of work to do,” Hartgraves said. “But I think we’ve got a good team. We’ve been working for this for months and months. … There’s more excitement than anything.”