A Senate bill to expand sports betting in Arizona is finally making progress following the committee’s approval of SB 1797 earlier this week. While passing the move cautiously, the Senators called for the clarity regarding governor’s renegotiated compact with the tribes.

The bill moved forward after Wednesday’s three-hour long session of the Senate Committee on Commerce brought testimony, questions, and some reluctance of SB 1797. However, eventually, the committee voted 6-3 to approve the bill. While concluding the three hours of discussion, Chairman J.D Mesnard said that the bill will now move to the Senate Appropriations Committee, where it will have a hearing on February 23.

What Does SB 1797 Aim to Change?

Senate Bill 1797 would allow for 20 sports betting licenses to be awarded. Up to ten sportsbook licenses would be granted to professional sports teams, something the Arizona tribes with casinos have been opposing until now. However, the gaming tribes have acquiesced in the support for the new bill in exchange for Gov. Doug Ducey’s renegotiated compacts, enabling tribes to offer new table games as well as an unspecified number of new casino venues, including in metro Phoenix.

Additionally, SB 1797 would also authorize fantasy sports betting and a new keno game playable at fraternal organizations and veterans halls. More importantly, the bill allows mobile sports betting in Arizona. The sports wagering license holders could contract with digital sportsbooks such as DraftKings and FanDuel, both of which support the measure.

Despite minority opposition, the bill managed to receive the support of three Republican and Democratic Senators each. However, the six Senators who nodded to the measure had somewhat similar feeling expressed by one of the colleagues, Tony Navarette, who said, “I will be voting this bill out of committee, but again, lots of questions, and lots of work to do on the governor’s part.”

What is the Opposition Saying?

There are still a lot of concerns about the proposed measures of legalized sports betting. Last week, the companion bill passed the Arizona House of Representative Committee with a 9-1 vote, but the Senate Commerce Committee there also seemed divided as three out of nine votes were against the expansion of sports betting.

Although there are concerns about problem gambling, as with many other states looking to legalize this lucrative industry, Arizona has more issues on the horizon. Tyler Pace, one of the three Senators opposing the bill, said he was reluctant to expand gambling in Arizona, particularly without knowing what the gaming tribes have in mind regarding casino expansion. Another Senator, Jamescita Peshlakai, expressed concern that only 18 of Arizona’s 22 tribes backed the measure. The gaming tribes, however, appear to be satisfied with the renegotiated deal.

Some lawmakers are concerned also about the complaints from sports bars and restaurants, which are excluded from sports betting expansion. Pace said he would be more vocal against the sports betting bill if it allowed additional venues for people to place bets. Peshlakai and committee Vice Chair Michelle Ugenti also raised the conflict of interest issue that might arise by authorizing sports betting licenses to professional sports teams.

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