Here's How Legalized Sports Betting Could Impact Arizona's Economy, Tribes

Published: Tuesday, September 7, 2021 - 11:40am
Updated: Tuesday, September 7, 2021 - 2:01pm
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On Sept. 9, Arizonans will legally be allowed to place a wager on sporting events at brick-and-mortar sports books as well as online and with mobile apps.

Gov. Doug Ducey signed House Bill 2772 into law back in April, paving the way for fully legalized sports betting as well as an expansion of the existing gaming compact with the support of all but one of the state’s Native American tribes.

On Sept. 6, a Maricopa County Superior Court judge tossed out a case the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe had filed against the Department of Gaming and Gov. Ducey, arguing the passage of the new gaming bill violated the terms of the 2002 Arizona Voter Protection Bill which prevents state lawmakers from changing the terms of voter initiatives.

Nicole Simmons is the attorney for the Yavapai-Prescott Tribe, and she argues the state overreached in regulating tribal gaming:

"The Voter Protection Act argument isn't that the state couldn't expand it at some point. But they did it in a way that X'd out the exact forms of gaming that were allowed under the Proposition 202 without putting it out to voter approval," Simmons said.

The tribe sought to delay the beginning of sports betting in Arizona.

Patrick Irvine represents the director of the state’s Department of Gaming and claimed such a delay could have substantial ramifications.

"The department has quantified that in terms of revenue loss and shows that it will be in the millions per month of every delay really starting from this week. So there's quantifiable, identifiable, certain harm if there is a delay to the start dates," Irvine said.

Following his ruling against the Yavapai-Prescott Tribe, Judge James Smith stated the new gambling expansion bill does not violate a previous gaming law which explicitly allows for growth of the gaming industry.

"If there's that trigger in Proposition 202 that is talking about what happens if more gambling is allowed, how can I accept the tribe's argument that Prop. 202 was intended to set in stone in perpetuity all gambling that would ever occur in Arizona?" Smith said.

Arizonans will be able to place wagers on the first game of the NFL season this Thursday night when the Dallas Cowboys take on Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Legal sports books were once the sole domain of Las Vegas casinos where bets can be placed on every pro sport imaginable and most college sports as well.

The exclusivity drove massive numbers to the Las Vegas books — especially for major events like the NCAA basketball finals and the Super Bowl. But in recent years, online and mobile sports betting has picked up steam — 22 other states have legalized it in various forms, and the operators have already begun an aggressive marketing campaign here in Arizona.

So what kind of impact will legal sports betting in Arizona and the rest of the country have on the economy of a gambling mecca like Las Vegas?

Howard Stutz writes the Indy-Gaming newsletter for the Nevada Independent, and The Show spoke with him to learn about legalized sports betting's potential impact.

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