Arizona has been doing everything in their power to legalize sports betting this year. However, tribal groups have been opposed to legalizing the industry. In February, Senator Sonny Borrelli and Representative Stephen Pierce introduced Senate Bill 1525 in hopes of putting together regulations around sports betting.
Later came House Bill 2813 which would allow both tribal and commercial gaming in the state. The goal was to get tribal gaming leaders on board to get a bill moving through the state legislature.
However, Arizona would need at least 51% approval from tribes to move forward to get something passed. Although there are only 22 tribes in the state, Arizona has seen much progress from their side.
“You have to have all the tribes agree and sign off on to anything additional or expansion in the compact, they all have to agree,” said state Sen. Sonny Borrelli. “It comes down to the gaming compact and how flexible it is. The first step is getting the tribes to be on board with it, and then you have to go through the state side of it.”
Arizona’s Biggest Hurdle
16 of the 22 tribes make up the Arizona Tribal-State Gaming Compact. If the Grand Canyon State were to move forward with sports betting, they would need the Compact to be on board with what state legislatures are trying to do. One potential breakthrough could be that Navajo Nation, Arizona’s largest tribal group, is not in the ATSGC.
Reports say that the Navajo’s are interested in sports betting, which could help to gain leverage to get other tribes on board with sports betting.
Sen. Borelli is on-board with doing everything possible to legalize sports betting. He believes that there is a big enough market for both retail and tribal sports betting. Rep. Steven Pierce has also been on board to help educate people on what sports betting could do for the state.
The two lawmakers also believed COVID-19 could help move sports betting along. The coronavirus shutdown the U.S. and had states suffering from budget deficits trying to defeat the virus. Sports betting has been used to help make up some of the losses, and Arizona looked to be a state that would try to use sports betting to boost state revenue.
How the Tribes See It
Tribal groups have been very stubborn in 2020 when working with lawmakers to legalize sports betting. For the new industry to come to fruition, the Arizona Tribal-State Gaming Compact needs to favor sports betting and 51% tribal approval.
It seems like the tribes know they have the upper-hand with sports betting, and they are taking advantage. Tribal groups do not see sports betting as a way to increase revenue. They believe they are doing just fine without it and do not need to add sports betting.
They also feel that if legalized, commercial sports betting could take away from their business, and sports betting would not be lucrative. This is most likely why tribal groups have been stubborn about creating a sports betting bill that would benefit the state.