Arizona State Legislature.

  • Governor Doug Ducey has worked with the Tribes of Arizona to get legal sports betting in the state in 2021 through Senate Bill 1797.
  • The Senate has now combined the sports betting bill with a historical horse racing bill which could cause big issues with the Tribes that were in favor of legal sportsbooks.
  • The combined bill in Senate Bill 1794 will need a decision before the Arizona State Legislature adjourns on April 24.

PHOENIX – In a shocking twist, sports betting and historical horse racing (HHR) have been combined in the Arizona State Legislature under one bill as of Tuesday.

The Senate Appropriations Committee was set to hear Senate Bill 1794, which would legalize HHR and Senate Bill 1797 that sought to make mobile and retail sports wagering legal in the state.

However, AZ SB 1797 was instead attached to AZ SB 1794 which could be a slippery slope toward legalizing the new amended and combined bill as lawmakers have particular views on both subjects that have now become one piece of legislation.

Some Background For The New Amended Bill

Senate Bill 1794 is a bill that originally set out to put historical horse racing kiosks at race tracks and OTB establishments throughout Arizona.

There was pushback on this topic because of the Tribal Gaming Compacts in place that give them exclusivity over slot machines and games like them, and HHR terminals have been seen as acting like a slot machine form of gaming.

Tacking Senate Bill 1797 onto the HHR bill could severely hurt the chances of legal sports betting coming to Arizona. At this point in time, months of negotiations have occurred with the state and the Tribes to expand their compacts into including sportsbooks.

Through these negotiations and the original AZ SB 1797 before Tuesday’s amendments, legal sports betting in the Grand Canyon State was agreed upon by 18 Tribes. Governor Doug Ducey stood as an advocate for the proposal as he worked very closely in the compact negotiations.

Ten mobile sportsbooks would be granted for use throughout the state under AZ SB 1797. DraftKings, FanDuel, and BetMGM were all expected to take one of the ten operating licenses for mobile sports betting platforms in the state should the bill become legal.

The Tribes also agreed to allow professional sports organizations to open sportsbooks at their venues for fans to gamble on the games while at the games.

What’s Next?

Arizona’s legal sports wagering future is now at stake as it was once in a more favorable position before turning into a bigger bill.

All of the time that was put into new Tribal Gaming Compacts may now be void with the addition of HHR to the sports betting proposal. With the opposition from the Tribes and their feelings toward HHR terminals, this amended bill could throw a wrench in legalizing sportsbooks in Arizona in 2021.

Only time will tell how everything will turn out but if Tribes back out of the deal, big-time operators like DraftKings may follow suit since HHR was not part of what they were advocating for from the beginning. It’s also being said that the Governor may not be on board with this conjoined bill after he’s worked tirelessly for legal sports betting alone and not any other industries like that of HHR.

The waters have just been muddied for the prospect of legal sports betting in Arizona for 2021 to say the least.

At the very least, this new change will make the discussions on the subject come to a crawl when they need to be at a brisk walk. No date for a hearing on the newly amended proposal has been set with the Arizona State Legislature adjourning for the year on April 24.

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