The process of implementing legal sports betting in Arizona is not going to be easy. However, Governor Doug Ducey is all in on bringing the form of gambling to the state of Arizona.
Governor Ducey is hoping to completely innovate the entire Arizona gambling framework. Sports betting is just a small piece of his overall vision.
Sports betting was illegal in the United States from 1992 until 2018 because of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. PASPA was removed in a 6-3 decision by the Supreme Court back in 2018. Following this decision, some Arizona legislators attempted to enact sports betting in the state.
The first attempt occurred in 2019, but this bill died throughout the year’s legislative session. Senator Sonny Borelli and Representative Steve Pierce have headlined the sports betting effort in the Arizona Congress since PASPA was outlawed.
These two legislators introduced a new bill this year that would allow sports betting kiosks at bars and other venues throughout the state.
Tribal Compacts Stand in the Way
Arizona state law isn’t favorable for commercial gambling. Tribal nations in the state dominate the Arizona casino economy. There are 22 federally recognized tribes in Arizona. Sixteen of these tribes operate 24 casinos in the state.
The state is locked into an agreement with the tribes because of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which is valid until 2022. The act states that all gaming must take place on reservation land.
This makes the enactment process very difficult for sports betting because it puts sports betting at the jurisdiction of the tribal nations.
Legislators that favor sports betting have claimed that mobile wagering should be legal in the state. This is because mobile sports wagers technically occur at the location of the server that is processing the bet. The tribal nations don’t believe that this is the case.
Borrelli and Pierce have created a very general bill to see if they can get sports betting through the state legislature. Sports betting doesn’t seem realistic in Arizona in 2021. State law would need to be changed, and federal law regarding tribal nations would need to be clarified.
Broader Gaming Expansion
The current compact with Arizona’s tribal nations is set to expire in 2022. Governor Ducey is in the process of negotiating with the tribal nations to create a new tribal compact.
Both parties will need to compromise to reach an agreement that benefits the state and tribes as a whole.
Sports betting is just one element of Governor Ducey’s broader gaming expansion. He believes that he will be able to enact an agreement that will financially benefit the tribes and give the state an increased financial stream from gambling.
A modernized gaming compact would allow this to happen because the old compact is past its time. The gaming compact that’s set to expire in 2022 was drafted over 20 years ago.
This is prior to cell phones and online gambling. Therefore, neither the state nor the tribal nations are benefiting from mobile gambling. An updated agreement will cause both parties to prosper financially.