Arizona Historical Horse Racing Machines.

  • Senate Bill 1794 to legalize historical horse racing and sports betting in Arizona has been approved to move to the Senate floor.
  • There is expected pushback from Tribes in Arizona that disagree with the legalization of HHR terminals at non-Tribal facilities.

PHOENIX – The Senate Rules Committee in Arizona saw a unanimous vote on Wednesday that would move the new combination bill of Senate Bill 1794 to legalize historical horse racing (HHR) and sports betting to the Senate floor for a vote.

The new version of the proposal will need to be written in a very succinct and concise manner because the subjects are somewhat taboo as far as their favorability toward passage is concerned due to the wording of existing Tribal Gaming Compacts.

What’s Being Said About The Amended Senate Bill 1794

Senate Bill 1794, up until Tuesday was a bill to legalize HHR terminals at race tracks and OTB statewide. However, these types of machines are seen as a style of slot gaming for which the Tribes in Arizona hold a complete monopoly through their existing compacts.

Tuesday led to the combination of AZ SB 1794 and Senate Bill 1797 that would make sports betting legal in Arizona. The Tribes have been in talks for months with Governor Doug Ducey to allow for legal sportsbooks in the state and to expand their Tribal Gaming Compacts to include them.

Wednesday, the committee approved the combination bill that will now simply be known as Senate Bill 1794 which will seek to make HHR terminals and retail and mobile sportsbooks legal in the Grand Canyon State.

Rather than a can of worms, Arizona likes to call legal sports betting and HHR legalization the “poison pill” with Tribes. Legalizing either one of these industries, let alone both as they are now within the same proposal could be a breach of Tribal Gaming Compacts.

Should the state violate any Tribal Gaming Compact, they will be officially void which means Tribes will no longer have to pay any gaming revenues that they’ve paid annually to Arizona.

What’s Next?

In the end, there will need to be Tribal approval for any legislation to move forward. If Tribes believe the “poison pill” has been popped, they can back out of their negotiations for legal sports betting in Arizona. Operators that have spoken in favor of the market would likely opt-out as well if the Tribes are not in favor of the current legislation.

Should Arizona pass Senate Bill 1794, it would require plenty of hearings on the matter and even then, it would be unlikely that the Governor would sign off on any bill that the Tribes, who he has been working so closely with for their new gaming compacts, are opposed to.

There is no scheduled date for the next hearing of AZ SB 1794. The session in the Arizona Legislature closes for 2021 on April 24.

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