By Jill R. Dorson | September 3, 2021
With companies like Caesars, FanDuel and Penn National Gaming building out sportsbooks at professional sports venues across the Valley, fantasy sports betting already has come to Arizona with betting on games arriving September 9.
Only a last-minute effort by the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe stood in the way of sports betting going live that day. A hearing on a request for an emergency injunction was scheduled for September 3, past The Entertainer!’s deadline.
Assuming the judge does not grant the request, Arizona is poised to become the biggest state in the West to launch live sports betting since the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in May 2018.
The Arizona Department of Gaming is targeting the first day of the NFL season to launch the first operators. Many of the biggest, most well-known sports betting operators will be offering odds and taking bets.
The Arizona launch will be the fourth in the United States this year — unless either Wyoming or South Dakota get there first.
As legal sports betting has spread from Nevada to more than 30 other U.S. jurisdictions in the last three years, the western states have been a little behind the curve.
Statewide mobile wagering is available in Colorado, Iowa and Nevada, but the Arizona launch represents only the third new open, competitive marketplace west of the Mississippi since PAPSA was overturned.
Big population excites operators
With a population of just over 7 million, it doesn’t hurt that the state is home to a professional sports team from each of the four major leagues, hosts NASCAR events, is a PGA Tour stop and has a passionate college football fanbase.
In all, eight sports organizations have received licenses. So too have 10 Arizona tribes after beating out six other tribes that had been competing for licenses.
“We are very excited about the future in Arizona. During the NBA playoffs, the world learned that the state has one of the most passionate fan bases in the country,” says Matt Prevost, chief revenue officer at BetMGM.
BetMGM has formed a partnership with the Arizona Cardinals.
It also had partnered with the Gila River Indian Community, which was not listed by the state as a winning applicant to run mobile sports betting off reservation.
However, Arizona Gaming Department spokesperson Maxwell Hartgraves says all tribes can offer sports betting at their casinos.
The amended tribal-state gaming compacts that were signed by Gov. Doug Ducey and Arizona tribes earlier this year included the ability for tribes to offer a variety of new casino games such as craps and roulette as well as sports betting, Hartgraves says.
“With that comes a lot of expectations, and we look forward to delivering an above-and-beyond sports betting experience with unique mobile and retail activations throughout the state,” Prevost says.
Arizona’s new law allows for a maximum 20 “event wagering operator” licenses, divided evenly among tribal casinos and professional sports teams/franchises.
Those with a license will be able to operate at least one retail sportsbook and up to two digital platforms. There are an additional 10 retail-only licenses available for the state’s horse racetracks and OTBs.
Consumers will be able to wager on professional, college and Olympic sports. The new law is broad enough that operators may ultimately be able to offer betting on things like the Academy Awards, Heisman Trophy and other events that are not tied to sports.
Major operators have partners
While Arizona will ultimately offer consumers myriad choices in who to bet with, the design of the law means that some tribal casinos won’t be able to offer sports betting.
The ADG approved daily fantasy operators to go live August 28. Those that are licensed must also have received approval for internal controls and house rules from the ADG. They include DraftKings, FanDuel, FFPC, Yahoo!, Fantasy Sports Shark and Underdog Sports.
In addition, approved event wagering operators already can offer consumers the chance to create and fund accounts. Approved operators can also begin marketing to consumers.
A full list of licensed operators and their affiliated sports organizations or tribe casinos can be found at sportshandlecom/arizona.
Operators have plans for brick-and-mortar sportsbooks at professional venues — and some are also entitled to open a second location within a set distance of the stadium.
For the most part, operators plan to launch their mobile platforms on September 9 with brick-and-mortars to follow.
Arizona is among the first U.S. jurisdictions in which sportsbooks will exist at professional sports venues.
Washington, D.C.’s Capital One Arena became the first pro venue in the country to accept wagers when it began doing so in the summer of 2020.
And as of now, only Washington, D.C.; Illinois; Maryland and Arizona allow for sportsbooks in arenas.
Jill R. Dorson is the managing editor at sportshandle.com.