Legalizing sports betting in Arizona will probably have to wait until at least 2021, as the state and tribal operators have failed to reach consensus in several draft legislations so far.
Arizona’s Sports Betting Push and HB 2813
Arizona has decided on a two-pronged approach towards the legalization of sports betting in 2020. Specifically, lawmakers have tried mustering support from both the House of Representatives and Senate, but both attempts have hit a snag, as tribal operators have not approved any of the proposed draft bills, and lawmakers have had their reservations.
The first such attempt was HB 2813, a sports betting bill sponsored by Republican Senator Sonny Borrelli and Republican Representative Stephen Pierce, seeking to empower retail betting shops. Passing the bill would make land-based betting legal in Arizona, enabling commercial and tribal casinos to set up retail sportsbooks.
Even though tribes seem to benefit under the draft legislation, they have been reluctant to endorse it. One of the reasons why is that they would lose their sovereignty and depend on the state of Arizona for approval to set up their betting shops.
Instead, tribes already believe that they have the power to launch betting products vested in them as per the gambling compacts negotiated with the state. The Arizona Indian Gaming Association (AIGA) is also against the bill, which is another reason why HB 2813 is currently on hold in the House.
Besides that, the bill does not allow mobile and online betting which for many players is inconvenient. Not only that but a certain number of House representatives are against HB 2813 as well.
Help from the Senate with SB 1525
Meanwhile, Borelli and Pierce have also been trying to push on with SB 1525, a revised version of SB 1158 which appeared in 2019 and failed to garner support.
Should SB 1525 be accepted, every single tribal casino in Arizona would be allowed to offer sports betting. However, once again mobile and online sports betting wouldn’t be permitted and a referendum would be needed to enact the legislation.
A referendum usually takes months to set up, however, and that is why this year’s bill is most likely not to make it until at least next year.
The Tribes and the Final Decision Regarding the Sports Betting
However, not all tribal operators are opposed to the idea of sports betting in Arizona. Navajo Nation seems supportive enough of industry legalization, as confirmed by Tucson attorney Steven Hart mentioned. However, if all the tribes aren’t on the same page, the law would be postponed again, as all tribes in a compact should sign off to any type of expansion to the compact.
Given the current timeline and impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s very unlikely for any bill to make it into law. Presently, passing SB 1525 would need a referendum, and organizing a referendum usually takes at least several months.
Depending on how HB 2813 and SB 1525 – or their revised versions – do during next year’s legislative session, a referendum could be scheduled for 2021, but some see a more plausible date for the adoption of sports betting in the state to some point in 2022.
As of now, Arizona remains one of the states facing financial problems because of the pandemic which is why any ideas to recover the economy of the state are welcome. One of the proposed ways is of course to allow both state casinos and tribal casinos to legalize retail sports betting.
Market analysts also mentioned that Arizona should reconsider the idea of adding mobile sports betting as well as that would offer a strong financial boost. However, as of now, even though retail sports betting has higher chances to be legalized, unfortunately, it isn’t the same for online gambling.
Arizona will have to hold tight because sports betting is a long way off.