Arizona Governor Asks Lawmakers to Allow Statewide Sports Gambling

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Last Wednesday, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said that he wants statewide expansion of the limited and well-regulated sports gambling industry. The governor said he wants lawmakers to legislate for commercial, statewide sports betting, betting on fantasy leagues, instant keno games, and legalized mobile sports betting.

In a document given to Arizona lawmakers on Wednesday, Ducey said he has negotiated a new compact with the state tribes, which have the exclusive right to operate casino-style betting in the Grand Canyon State, with certain limits. The governor-styled revamp includes the possibility of Arizona sports betting both on and off the state’s tribal reservations. The current 20-year agreement with Arizona tribes expires in 2022.

What is the Governor Looking For?

Gov. Ducey stressed the need for a modernized gaming compact that will attract more revenue for Arizona’s tribal nations and the state, as the “goal is to bring Arizona gaming into the 21st century.” Currently, the state government sets a share of tribal gaming revenue.

While speaking to Capitol Media Services, Ducey press aide C.J. Karamargin noted, “A lot has changed since the first compacts were signed. He said cellphones were in the primitive stage and “weren’t the thing they are now.” But the world has changed drastically today and “our proposal is intended to reflect the way citizens live their lives today.”

The executive push has come ahead of the expiry of the existing 20-year compacts approved by voters in 2002. For the governor, revised compacts will generate additional money for the state without imposing new taxes amid economic constraints in the face of the pandemic. Besides, Ducey has been a keen supporter of expanded gaming, particularly following the historic annulment of PASPA in May 2018.

In fact, the Republican governor attempted in 2018 to fund a portion of his teacher pay package by persuading Arizonans to play keno, which is already an option on reservations. However, the plan for off-reservation keno operated by the Arizona Lottery had to be scrapped after finding it to be inconsistent with existing tribal compacts, which ban the state from running new games that were not allowed when the 2002 deals were approved.

New compacts will offer opportunities for change, as the tribes also see benefits. More importantly, renegotiated compacts will not require voter approval. The bigger change would be in wagering on sports. However, Karamargin did not clarify whether the new compacts would be limited to professional sports or would it extend to college sports betting.

What’s Next for Arizona?

Following Ducey’s support for sports betting, Arizona tribes seem open to negotiating the new Tribal Gaming Compacts. From what the Governor has proposed, it seems that both the state and Arizona’s tribes will benefit from allowing statewide sports betting, making it a win-win situation for everyone involved.

Currently, according to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, tribal gaming must take place on reservation land. Supporters say that mobile bets actually take place at the location of the server processing the wagers, rather than on the device accepting it. However, things remain in the gray area until defined by the relevant authorities. Therefore, it is unclear as to whether a new law will need to be passed to allow for legalized mobile betting, of whether it can be a straightforward amendment of the compacts.

Now it is down to Arizona lawmakers to discuss the options and decide what they want the future of gaming in the state to look like. The legislature convened on January 11 and will remain in session until May 7. By this time, a decision on Arizona sports betting will have been made.

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