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On Monday, the Grand Canyon state introduced a wide-ranging proposal that would authorize wagers on professional and college sports betting at tribal casinos and at sites owned by pro sports teams. It would also include online and fantasy sports wagering plus add limited keno games at off-track betting locations and social clubs like the American Legion.
The proposal was introduced by Rep. Jeff Weninger (R) of Chandler and has been anticipated since Gov. Doug Ducey (R) looked upon an opportunity for new gaming compact to offer additional revenue for Arizona tribal nations and to add to the state budget. In Ducey’s most recent State of the State address in early January, he mentioned working on a new deal with tribes within the state for several months. He was hoping a gaming compact can boost state revenue by allowing for ancillary gambling outside of Arizona’s tribal-run casinos.
When questioned in an interview, Weninger was quoted as saying:
That’s just what the deal does. With that comes tax revenue without raising taxes and allows us to keep our tax rates low.
Ducey has also noted that the current 20-year compacts, approved by voters in 2002 are going to be expiring. The tribes are interested in keeping the revenues flowing. For Ducey, revised compacts are a way to generate additional dollars for the state without imposing new taxes at a time he wants Arizona lawmakers to enact more tax cuts.
There was a previous effort in 2019 to allow for sports wagering but those efforts fell apart when Ducey said he wanted any such plan to be part of the renegotiation of tribal compacts and not any separate effort.
A major part of House Bill 2772 would include pro sports teams in the state to run sports wagering operations at their venues. Teams like the NFL Arizona Diamondbacks, MLB Arizona Cardinals, NHL Arizona Coyotes, NBA Phoenix Suns, and WNBA Phoenix Mercury would all additionally be permitted to take mobile wagers. There would be 10 licenses awarded to sports including professional golf and possibly NASCAR as well.
Under terms of the plan, the tribes would receive the right to build new casinos as outlined in the original 2002 agreement. A major bonus would be they would also be allowed to expand their exclusive casino gambling offerings. They could add games like baccarat and craps to current menus that include slot machines, blackjack, and poker.
Weninger’s legislation would require the Arizona Department of Gaming to determine licensing fees, renewal rates, and the tax rate levied on gross gaming revenue generated by sports betting.
The Arizona Department of Gaming would issue fantasy sports licenses and define regulatory guidelines and fees under HR 2772. The bill would also seek to allow for off-track wagering locations and social clubs to offer keno games.
In addition, there would be options for online gambling. That would allow known online gambling sites like DraftKings and FanDuel to piggyback on the licenses.
Arizona lawmakers have been supportive of gaming expansion and realize it will prevent more people from traveling to bordering Nevada cities to gamble. The largest city Phoenix is approximately a four-and-a-half-hour drive from Las Vegas.
Commenting on the new proposal State Sen. T.J. Shope (R-Coolidge) told Capitol Media Services:
Obviously, the allure of Vegas is always going to be there. I, myself, go a handful of times a year. For that person who is interested in doing something in the evening when the ballgame’s over, they’re going to be able to go ahead and have that option.
Gretchen Conger, Ducey’s Deputy Chief of Staff said the deal will help tribes and pro sports teams that have struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic. And the plan is certain to boost state revenue, but it will take some time for the amount to become clear, especially revenue from gambling on sporting events.
Larry Gibbs is both a seasoned journalist and a respected online gaming industry consultant. His wry commentary & sharp analysis have appeared in numerous top gaming and sports wagering publications. He has also served as Vice President of US Gaming Services, a marketing research organization with 15 years of experience in US online wagering. He has spoken at noted gaming industry conferences including G2E, GiGSE, and NCLGS.
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