Arizona House Sends Sports Betting Bill To Senate

The Arizona House of Representatives swiftly moved HB 2772 through several readings and to a full vote Thursday morning, sending it to the Senate for approval. The bill would allow for statewide mobile and retail sports betting with platforms tethered to tribal casinos and professional sports venues.

Introduced in early February, the bill moved fairly easily through the House before getting to the floor, but its Senate counterpart, SB 1797, had a much rockier road and was wrapped into a historical horse racing bill in what some sources are calling a political move. After a contentious hearing in the Senate Commerce Committee in late February, the Appropriations Committee added the text of SB 1797 into SB 1794, which would legalize historical horse racing and could trigger a “poison pill” in relation to tribal-state compacts. For now, the bill is sitting on the Senate floor but hasn’t gotten to a vote.

A poison pill is anything that could violate a state-tribal compact and allow a tribe to stop paying a state gaming revenue. Both historical horse racing and sports betting would technically be poison pills under the current pacts, but tribal leaders and representatives from Gov. Doug Ducey’s office say sports betting is part of current pact negotiations, so when all is said and done, it would not trigger the poison pill.

Has Ducey repaired rift?

The House bill, crafted by Ducey’s office and introduced by Rep. Jeff Weninger, could meet a difficult audience in the Senate unless the rift between lawmakers there and Ducey has been or does get solved.

Senators pointed a finger at Ducey during the committee meetings, saying he left them in the dark about the tribal compacts and claiming that they did not feel comfortable supporting a bill without knowing what is in the compacts. That said, tribal leaders testified that they were pleased with and would sign off on new compacts. But anyone involved in compacting has to sign a non-disclosure agreement, and some lawmakers want access before offering support.

Weninger’s bill would allow for retail wagering at 10 tribal casinos and 10 professional sports venues. Weninger said the goal is for “parity,” but the numbers do not jibe — there are more than 10 tribal casinos and fewer than 10 professional sports venues, as outlined in the bill. Still, tribal leaders said they would hammer out details among themselves, and the possibility exists that the bill could be amended on the Senate side.

The bill, which sets the legal wagering age at 21, allows for betting on college and professional sports but prohibits some college prop bets. The bill also allows for 10 retail sports betting licenses at horse tracks and would give fraternal and veterans associations a chance to offer keno and have up to two daily fantasy kiosks at their halls.

Tribes, pro teams could get extra location

One of the rare aspects of the legislation is that it would allow the tribes and sports venues to have a second retail location off property. So, for example, FanDuel, which already has a partnership with the Phoenix Suns, could have a brick-and-mortar sportsbook inside Phoenix Suns Arena and a second location in the adjacent mall. There are strict parameters on where the second location could be, but the idea is to enable fans who cannot get into an event to get close to the game atmosphere while also being able to wager and watch, according to Weninger.

What happens from here is anyone’s guess. Should HB 2772 be assigned to the Commerce Committee, it would appear to have a better chance at reaching the Senate floor than if it goes to Appropriations. Both committees moved the Senate bill forward with reservations, but opposition was lighter in the Commerce Committee.

Arizona’s legislature is in session until April 24.

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