Arizona Sports Betting Gets House Committee Backing But Trouble Could Loom

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Arizona sports betting

Arizona sports betting appeared full of momentum Tuesday, but sails quickly deflated Wednesday.

The joint proposals in the House and Senate — HB 2772 and SB 1797 — would legalize AZ sports betting. The bills would help Gov. Doug Ducey enact recently renegotiated compacts with the state’s tribes.

The House Commerce Committee voted 9-1 to advance the bill Tuesday. Despite being on Wednesday’s agenda, the bill was held during the Senate Commerce Committee, indicating some potential opposition.

Along with the renegotiated compacts, Ducey also said he wants legalized sports betting in his State of the State address. The bills also legalize daily fantasy sports and keno.

Arizona sports teams in support

Twenty proposed licenses would be split between Arizona’s professional sports organizations and tribal operators.

Representatives from the Phoenix Coyotes, Arizona Cardinals, Arizona Diamondbacks, PGA Tour and Phoenix Raceway all spoke in support of the bill. The teams could be licensees for sportsbooks at their venues and online, partnering with operators.

Amilyn Pierce, Diamondbacks vice president of government affairs, said the bill will help ensure the organization doesn’t fall behind other teams. Pierce said teams in other states already are pulling in revenue from lucrative partnerships with sportsbook operators.

Supportive Arizona House

Ducey’s General Counsel Anni Foster spoke to the committee on behalf of the governor. Foster said the bill culminates several years of work to extend the tribal gaming compacts.

The compact extensions had three goals:

The bill’s sponsor and committee chair Rep. Jeff Weninger spoke at length about the primary and ancillary benefits of legalizing sports betting.

Lobbyist talks revenue boost of $42 million

Compass Strategies managing partner Kelsey Lundy spoke on behalf of DraftKings, BetMGM and FanDuel.

Lundy highlighted the fact Arizona is one of six states without legal daily fantasy sports. She also cited estimates that more than 1 million Arizonans are betting upwards of $3 billion illegally.

With legalized sports betting, Lundy said Arizona could generate up to $42 million annually in taxes to its general fund.

Questions still at large about sports betting

The lone vote against was from Rep. Pamela Powers Hannely, who appeared most concerned about data privacy. Powers Hannely also has “serious concerns about public health.”

Rep. Diego Espinoza voted yes to advance the bill, but as a business owner worried about small business inclusion.

Espinoza’s concerns were building on comments from David Delos, president of the Arizona Licensed Beverage Association.

“How can it be that in Arizona that only the big players seem to benefit while small businesses operating with restrictions and being asked to operate under reduced capacity for the foreseeable future are not even mentioned in this bill,” Delos said.

Tribal questions

With just 10 licenses portioned out for the 16 tribes that operate 24 casinos, there is potential for some opposition from tribal interests.

Still, at the House committee vote, non-gaming small tribes were in support of the bill.

Lobbyist John MacDonald spoke on their behalf and said the bill “secures the financials of smaller rural tribes.”