Arizona Draws Closer to Launching Sports Betting and Gambling Expansion

Sports betting and gambling expansion are on the cards for the state of Arizona as the Senate Commerce Committee has advanced a bill on Wednesday.

Sports Betting and Gambling Bill Advances in Senate Committee

Arizona is heading towards a future in which regulated sports betting is part of the landscape. The state advanced a sport betting bill negotiating concessions with the state’s tribal casinos as well as opening the sluicegates for new tribal casinos, striking a balance that few other states have been able to achieve.

While other states see tribal casinos and private stakeholders bicker, Gov. Doug Ducey’s office has been able to swiftly negotiate amendments to the existing tribal compacts, allowing tribal operators to build an unlimited number of new casinos, including in metro Phoenix, giving the tribes access to populous and central gaming areas.

As a result, they have consented to allow 10 sportsbook licenses to be issued to pro sports teams from the state. The other 10 sportsbook licenses will go to tribes, potentially splitting control over the wagering industry evenly. Tribal operators will also go ahead and receive a go-ahead to add more table games to their already bulky set-up, expanding their offering and remaining largely competitive even in a more liberalized gambling economy.

The House of Representative Committee already passed the matter with 9-1 vote first, but it was the Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday that secured a 6-3 passage for the bill. While this is exciting news, some lawmakers are still slightly skeptical of the negotiations.

A Few Details to Clear up with the Governor

For starters, not all understand how Gov. Ducey has negotiated a deal that is historically rooted in controversy. Only nine out of 90 lawmakers have been given details. The bill, though, also seeks to authorize fantasy sports as well as keno, and it wants to see mobile sports betting authorized.

The issue according to some is that tribes may have been given “too cosy” deals, allowing them to expand and build in locations that may not be happy after-the-fact. Then again, there are also businesses.

Business owners of sports bars and restaurants argued that while the bidding players are likely to get all the benefits, their establishments would be forced on the defensive and probably struggle to survive. Others have brought up the issue that letting sports teams run sportsbooks is a clear conflict of interest.

Arizona is the first and only state to actually enable professional sporting franchises to run sportsbooks as the main part of its legalization efforts. Another reason for concern was the fact that tribes didn’t see the matter unanimously, although with a majority of 18 out of 22 tribes in favor.

In the meantime, the governor has presented media outlets with a draft of his bill that enables tribes to pursue expansion of their own gambling. Nothing is carved in stone, though, until the U.S. Department of Interior approves the new compact deals and publishes them in the U.S. Federal Register.

Ducey’s attorney, Anni Foster, assured lawmakers that they can request the details about the compacts privately and would receive them promptly following a request. Negotiations do not yet seem final, but Arizona may be enjoying a boom in its gambling industry before long, notwithstanding conscientious objectors.

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