Arizona Governor Signs Sports Betting Bill & Updates Tribal Compacts

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On Thursday, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed the sports betting bill into law, while also renegotiating the existing tribal gaming compacts. The sports betting measure approved by the Legislature earlier this week extends gaming options at tribal casinos, besides introducing sports betting through licenses issued to tribes and professional sports teams. The bill also includes legal fantasy sports and new Keno games at horse racetracks.

With the bill having been sat on the Governor’s desk since Monday, the latest development finally legalizes sports betting in The Copper State while permitting the construction of new casinos in Phoenix and expanding the state’s current tribal gaming options. The governor called the new legislation a “win-win-win for the tribes, the state, and the taxpayers.”

New Tribal Compacts

Tribal negotiations were kept undisclosed until the compact document was made public Thursday morning, which saw the governor and the leaders of Arizona tribes sitting around for the signing ceremony. Now, Arizona tribes will be allowed to operate almost 6,300 new slot machines in addition to the 20,500 they are already allowed to operate. They can have a boost every two years after the new compacts are formally approved by the federal government.

Tribal casinos will also be able to offer Las Vegas-style gambling from their existing limited offerings. There are currently 24 casinos in the state, including seven tribal casinos in metro Phoenix. At least one more new casino in metro Tuscan could be built soon, and the updated compact will allow for the construction of four new casinos in the metro Phoenix area.

Legal Sports Betting

The signature of the bill also allows for legal sports betting in the state. Arizona sports betting legislation allows pro sports teams like the Arizona Coyotes, Arizona Cardinals, and Arizona Diamondbacks to run sportsbook operations at their respective establishments, at a retail location within a quarter-mile, and online. As many as 10 licenses would be given to sports teams, including professional golf and NASCAR. When asked why the sports teams were given licenses exclusively while leaving out other bidders, Rep. Jeff Weninger, who sponsored sports betting bill in the House, said that pro sports teams were preferred for their deep-rooted ties to the state.

Like pro sports teams, 10 separate licenses would be awarded to tribes, who could operate sportsbooks at two dozen tribal casinos in Arizona. Tribes can partner with online operators to offer online sports betting in the state.

Interestingly, DraftKings did not waste time for Ducey to sign Arizona sports betting into law as the Boston-based sportsbook giant announced Wednesday an expanded partnership with the PGA Tour allowing it to run in-person and online betting in Arizona. DraftKings’ major rival, FanDuel did the same on Thursday by announcing a sports betting deal with the Phoenix Suns.

A Deal That Benefits Everyone

Ducey said the signing of the sports betting legislation that would also give a 20-year extension to the tribal gaming compacts was the culmination of years of discussion and engagement among many diverse stakeholders. While hailing the legislation a historic bipartisan achievement, Ducey said, “We did it by bringing everyone to the table, pushing personal agendas aside, and putting Arizona first.” The Republican governor said that Arizona has grown and changed significantly since the last gaming compact was signed in 2003, and that change should be reflected in state policies and compacts.

Almost all the stakeholders, including pro-sports betting lawmakers and scores of tribal leaders, attended the signing ceremony at the Heard Museum in central Phoenix. The only major stakeholders not present at the occasion were the owners of the large pro sports teams.

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