Sports Betting in Arizona put on hold until 2021 after failed consensus

Posted on October 23, 2020 - Last Updated on October 28, 2020

State and tribal operators have failed to meet a consensus in Arizona over legislation that would legalize sports betting.

In an attempt to legalize sports betting in Arizona the state decided on a two-factor approach in order to gain a wide consensus on the legislation. The aim was to garner support from both the House of Representatives and the state Senate. This attempt has failed, at least in 2020, after tribal operators refused to approve any of the draft bills. They may have been right to deny the approval as many other lawmakers in the state have voiced concerns over the proposed bills.

The initial attempt at sports betting legislation this year was HB 2813. This bill was sponsored by Senators Sonny Borrelli (R) and Stephen Pierce (R). The bill would allow land-based betting in Arizona and empower already existing commercial and tribal casinos to set up their own sportsbooks.

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This was opposed by tribal operators, under this bill, the tribal casinos would lose control over their own gambling system. They currently have complete control over gambling outfits on tribal land, but the bill would make it so that they would have to rely on the state of Arizona itself to approve the creation of any new betting operations.

Besides the antiquated approach towards tribal sovereignty, the bill was definitely not future proof. The bill only allows land-based betting operations. This means that mobile and online betting in Arizona would still be outlawed. With the ongoing pandemic and the massive push towards online betting, this looks like a backwards thinking bill and it was rightly refused.

There was also SB 1525. While this would allow tribal control of sports betting franchises, it still does not allow for any online or mobile betting. The bill was created this year, but it will not be put up for the vote until 2021. If it passes in the Senate, it will then be put to a public referendum.

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Legalized sports betting in Arizona still looks like a distant dream. Even if the bills proposed this year are put up to a vote, it will still be a long time until they see the floor of the Senate or House of Representatives. Despite plans to shelve talks until 2021, it is far more likely that the implementation of any changes to the legislation would not happen until at least 2022 or even later.

The bigger issue, however, is the outdated legislation that is being proposed. We may see legal sports betting in Arizona in the next few years, but even if it is legalized, there is no mention of the online or mobile betting scene. This is a huge oversight on the part of the state legislators, if they want to be serious about improving the betting scene in their state, they should be looking to the future of the industry. Not only would it be a boost for the local gambling operators, the financial incentive for the state, in terms of taxes, but would also be a huge boon to an area already reeling from the financial impact of the pandemic.

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Andrew Boggs

Andrew is a Northern Ireland based journalist with a background in esports and VR reporting. He grew up in County Down, Northern Ireland, and graduated from Ulster University with a Masters's degree in Journalism.

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