Last updated: June 1, 2020
Status: In February 2019, the Arizona state Appropriations Committee voted in favour of supporting the SB 1163 sports betting bill, granting exclusive rights to the state’s Indian tribes, who already hold the rights to operate casinos.
ETA: As of yet no tribes have taken up to option to offer sports betting off of their reservations. It is unknown whether this will change in the short term.
Once the Supreme Court’s pulled the plug on the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) that had prohibited legal sport betting across much of the country, Arizona representatives sprang into action.
The original proposal drafted by Arizona State Senator, Sonny Borrelli, failed to make it out of the committee stage prompting a second proposal, which is the version that was subsequently moved forward in February.
The bill will be put to the 30-member Arizona State Senate, then potentially move to the House of Representatives before it finally lands on the desk of state Governor, Doug Ducey.
The bill would allow tribes to operate commercial sports betting operations in bars, kiosks, and other private venues across the state. However, there is disagreement among the tribes about the impact the bill would have on their existing operations if they are not given the power to make changes prior to the bill getting passed. It seems there is still some negotiating to be done, but the prospect of sport betting in Arizona has inched closer to reality.
Arizona has always been known as one of the most prohibitive states in the country when it comes to gambling. However, dog and horse racing were legalised in the 1940s and lottery games were approved by a public vote in 1980. The state did not have any casinos until 1988, when Congress passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Since then, more than 20 tribal casinos have opened in the state.
Dog racing finally ended in 2017 when it was banned by Governor Doug Ducey, but horse racing is still held at the state’s two tracks: Turf Paradise in Phoenix and Rillito Park in Tucson. Meanwhile, attempts to legalize fantasy sports betting have failed to pass on two occasions, although the precise laws regarding this type of online gambling remain unclear.
Sports betting is not illegal but without legislation and regulated outlets in place, it is not possible for members of the public to place a legal sports bet in Arizona.
The proposed bill will hand control of sports betting to the tribal groups that currently operate the state’s casinos. They will have the ability to offer sports betting in their casinos or partner with other private outlets.
The current proposal has set an age limit of 21 or over for sports betting in Arizona.
There are no legal sports betting currently in operation in the state. With discussions ongoing, it could be another year or two before Arizona finally open its doors to sports bettors.
Currently, there are no licenced sports betting operators in Arizona. However, the state’s tribal casino operators will be offered exclusivity as part of ongoing proposals.
Until all the details of the bill are agreed and legislation is passed, operators are unable to offer sports betting in the state.
If the sports betting bill is passed by the Governor, this could open the door for mobile betting in the state. However, it has not been confirmed if such services will be made available as part of the legalization process. Punters will have to wait and see how the process unfolds over the next year or two.
Studies vary but best estimates indicate that up to $4 billion could be wagered per year resulting in $261 million in revenue. At a 6.75% tax rate, Arizona State would pocket about $17 million in tax revenue. However, to reach those numbers, sports betting would need to be made available outside of the tribal casinos, and on mobile and online platforms.
Current proposals suggest a tax rate of 6.75%, the same rate that is applied in neighbouring Nevada.
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