Gambling expansion has come to Arizona. Thanks to the passage of legislation and approval of new tribal-state compacts this spring, the gambling landscape in the state sits ready to widen to Grand Canyon-like proportions.
In April, following years of negotiations involving Arizona lawmakers and tribal leaders, Gov. Doug Ducey signed both gambling legislation and new tribal-state compacts. In May, those compacts received federal approval from the U.S. Department of the Interior‘s Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Now it’s June, and the Arizona Department of Gaming has begun work drafting regulations for sports betting and daily fantasy sports with eye toward launching the first retail and mobile sportsbooks in time for the 2021 NFL season.
While many of the state’s tribes are eager to begin accepting their first sports bets, there is equal excitement among many regarding the addition of new casinos — and new casino games — also authorized by the new compacts.
More casinos, more slots, and more table games coming to AZ
Arizona has 22 federally recognized tribes. Sixteen of them operate at least one of the 25 tribal casinos located throughout the state.
The new compacts authorize up to 10 licenses for tribes to offer retail and mobile sports betting. Up to 10 more licenses are available as well to the state’s professional sports franchises and facilities, with the state’s horse racing tracks also eligible to apply for retail sports betting licenses.
The compacts additionally pave the way for more Arizona tribal casinos. The old compacts allowed up to 44 casinos, while the new ones push that total up to 55 properties. That said, expectations are only four more casinos will be added, two near Phoenix, one near Tucson, and the other possibly near Flagstaff.
The number of slot machines the tribes can collectively offer has increased as well. Before the tribes were allowed up to 20,500 slots, and had about 13,500 in operation. The new compacts increase the overall total by nearly 6,300 slots while also allowing 550 more to be added every two years.
The same goes for table games. Before the change, the tribes could operate a maximum of approximately 3,600 table games between them, although in truth right now there are only around 430 in use.
The amended compacts permit every tribal casino to have up to 100 table games, with casinos located nearer to larger cities allowed up to 150. Those are both increases, and the overall number of table games allowed has thus increased as well.
As it happens, the casinos may well want to be able to offer more table games. That’s because the kinds of games they can offer has also expanded. That in turn should increase the likelihood that extra tables will be put to use.
New table games include craps, roulette, baccarat, Sic Bo & Pai Gow
As far as table games go, previously the tribes were limited to blackjack and poker. (Tribes could also offer keno and bingo.) Therefore all 430 or so of the table games currently offered in Arizona casinos spread one of those two games.
The new compacts allow the casinos to add the following games to their offerings:
- craps (at least eight tables per facility)
- roulette (at least eight tables per facility)
- baccarat (at least eight tables per facility)
- Sic Bo (at least four games per facility)
- Pai Gow (at least four games per facility)
Craps is the popular dice game that allows players to wager against the house on a single roll or a series of rolls. Players take turns being the “shooter” and rolling the dice as everyone places pass line and don’t pass wagers, come and don’t come bets, odds bets and more.
Roulette is the classic casino game that involves the spin of a wheel. Again, multiple players can participate at once. Players can wager on single numbers, red or black, odd or even, or other possible outcomes.
Baccarat is a card game especially popular in Europe and Asia, and a favorite of high rollers worldwide. James Bond plays baccarat in the original Casino Royale novel and film. It might resemble blackjack at first glance with players gathered around a dealer at a semi-circular table. However, the rules for baccarat are very different.
Sic Bo is another game that is very popular in Asia, especially in Macau. Like craps it is a dice game, although unlike craps which can involve some strategy, Sic Bo is strictly a chance-based game like roulette.
Pai Gow has Asian origins as well, although the card game is popular in the United States, too. Players know it as a fun, poker-based game in which players try to beat a dealer by making better hands (as in blackjack).
Arizona gamblers will likely be familiar with some of these games, or perhaps all of them. That said, none will have ever played any of them in an Arizona tribal casino before.
In other words, not only will there be more Arizona casinos going forward, but the casinos will become more Vegas-like, too, with the addition of these new games along with sports betting. It will be interesting to see which new table games emerge as favorites among Arizonans once they appear.