Arizona Retail Sports Betting In Focus Again

Arizona is a state with a significant tribal presence, as currently 22 tribes are being recognized, 16 of them operating 25 tribal casinos in total, but none of these casinos offer sports betting operations, the latter being illegal, a fact that may soon change as the state Senate has been introduced with SB1525, the bill that seeks to legalize land-based sports books in casinos and even bars.

It Is Not Over Until the Fat Lady Sings

Having failed with their first attempt to legalize retail sports betting operations in 2019, the group of sponsors around Senator Sonny Borrelli has now come up with the same idea that would not legalize online or mobile sports betting, but would give Native American tribes exclusive rights to offer sports books in their casino facilities.

Besides the tribal casinos sports books, sports betting can be introduced through betting kiosks or machines that are located in facilities that have “a bar license, a beer and wine bar license or a private club license”, with the tribes having the opportunity to lease their rights or enter into rental agreements with third parties regarding their rights to offer betting operations.

IGRA Accommodations Needed

The part of the bill regarding offering sports betting kiosks in bar-type facilities creates confusion as to how it will be implemented legally, as currently tribes have their gaming rights under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act /IGRA/ that confines these rights only within lands that are part of a tribal reservation or in a federal trust.

In terms of taxes, the bill suggests that sports books are charged at 6.75% of their adjusted gross receipts, without going into detail as to how much a license for sports betting operations would cost.

Tribal Bargaining Power

Effectively, what SB1525 proposes is to give extra bargaining power to the tribes as the exclusivity right they would gain if the bill passes and becomes a law would let them block any further legislative process and give them enough leverage to successfully renegotiate their current compacts with the state, which expire in 2023, with an automatically starting three-year period for negotiations.

Slow And Steady Wins the Race

Clearly, there are texts in the bill that have not been properly thought of, bringing memories of the SB1158 fiasco, where Senator Borrelli had to enact a strike-everything amendment by removing the original text of the bill and replace it with new language to allow another committee to discuss the subject matter as the previous bill could not pass beyond the Commerce and Public Safety Committee,  and rename the bill to SB1163 before presenting it to the Appropriations Committee of the Senate.

“I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of seeing our money going to Nevada and tired of seeing our money going off-shore”, State Senator Sonny Borrelli.

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