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Arizona‘s HB 2772, the bill legalizing DFS contests and sports betting, is now law. Governor Doug Ducey (R) signed the House version of the bill to legalize sportsbooks and paid fantasy contests in April, two months after incarnations of the bill arrived on the desks of AZ legislators and years after initial talks began.
February 2021 saw a contentious battle for the fate of sports betting in Arizona, with the Senate’s SB 1797 creating quite a bit of controversy in the Legislature. The conversations ranged from “how do we provide legal sports betting to a public that wants it” to “who’s really getting the short end of the stick here?”
Initially, many lawmakers argued that SB 1797 was a raw deal for the tribes, who before this legislation were the sole operators of gambling venues in Arizona. Opening up the market to non-tribal entities like sporting venues was a cause for concern to legislators like Senator Jamescita Peshlakai.
Peshlakai and others pushed back against the provisions of the bill as being a challenge to tribal compacts, “the closest thing (tribes) get to reparations in this state”. Ultimately, SB 1797 was scrapped. However, legislative processes in the United States typically include comparable bills in a state’s House and Senate which compete to make it to the governor’s desk, and one hope remained for sports betting in the Grand Canyon State: HB 2772.
This House Bill ended up being finalized by the legislature and approved by Governor Doug Ducey, signed into law on April 15, 2021. Included in the bill is language allowing for up to 20 online and 20 brick-and-mortar licenses available to eligible tribal casinos and sports venues. The finalized HB 2772 also includes an important caveat missing from SB 1797: it provides tribal casinos with more revenue generators like expanded slot selections and more table games.
Previously, Arizona tribes were only allowed to offer blackjack, limited slots, and a paltry selection of table games at their casinos. With expanded tribal access to casino games, Governor Stephen Lewis of the Gila River Indian Community threw his support behind HB 2772, calling it “the most unique unicorn in political life: A genuine win for us all.”
Both tribal and commercial operators will be eligible to apply for a total of 20 licenses allowing for both retail and mobile sportsbooks. Several big names in the betting and DFS industries have already secured early partnerships with local sports venues, such as DraftKings‘ deal with the TPC Scottsdale (known as the home of the most-attended golf tournament in the PGA, the Waste Management Phoenix Open).
Additionally, FanDuel now has a partnership with the Phoenix Suns and plans to open a “luxury sportsbook” at the team’s namesake arena (with a mobile sportsbook almost certain to follow). Phoenix Raceway is a famed NASCAR track in the state, and NASCAR’s existing deals with WynnBET and Penn National’s Barstool Sportsbook will likely lead to market access in AZ.
Tribal organizers are making connections with providers as well. Kindred Group, proprietors of the Unibet sportsbook brand, have partnered with the Quechan Indian Tribe of Arizona and California, and are expected to go live with Unibet in Arizona soon. More providers are expected to partner with both tribal casinos and commercial sporting venues, so expect to see a wide variety of books available in the near future.
Chris Altman is a traveling writer and content specialist covering everything from betting to plane crashes. He has been working in sports betting, specifically legislation for some time now, covering industry developments and the legal landscape of sportsbooks in the U.S. Chris is also a published short story writer and zine editor. Email: [email protected]More info on Chris Altman
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