- Arizona could open a legalized sports betting industry before the end of 2021
- Proponents of the measure believe it will add hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue
- Detractors fear the money will be used on tax cuts for the wealthy
More than 20 states have voted to legalize and open up their own regulated sports betting industries since the Supreme Court’s landmark 2018 decision to strike down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. However, Nevada is still the only state in the southwest with a fully legal sports betting industry. Arizona, New Mexico, California, and Texas have not yet followed suit.
While lawmakers in just about every state are considering their options these days, Arizona is one state that could take action relatively soon. Governor Doug Ducey has already gone on record in support of legalized sports betting as a way to add a lucrative new revenue stream to the state’s books. There are two sports betting bills currently under consideration in the state legislature, though the State Senate will have to approve just one in order for the industry to move forward.
Pros of Legalization
Proponents of legalized sports betting believe legalization could potentially add hundreds of millions of dollars to the state coffers on a yearly basis. Rep. Jeff Weninger, one of the sponsors of one of the bills, told ABC 15, “I don’t think we’re talking about tens of millions. We’re talking about hundreds of millions.”
(1/2) Can confirm an Arizona sports betting proposal that would have allowed a sportsbook license for a massive car auction will not advance. This has no direct impact on a separate sportsbook bill backed by state gaming tribes & Gov. Doug Ducey. (@sports_handle first to report)
— Ryan Butler (@ButlerBets) March 30, 2021
A bill sponsored by Weninger passed through the House by a vote of 48-12. His version calls for Arizona’s Native American tribes to expand betting opportunities at their casinos to include sports betting and daily fantasy sports. Under that bill, the tribes would compete for 10 sports betting licenses. Arizona’s pro sports teams – the Diamondbacks, Coyotes, Suns, and Cardinals – would be granted licenses. Ditto for the Phoenix Open (PGA) and NASCAR.
The Suns are also in favor of the idea. The team’s CEO and president, Jason Rowley, said, “We’re excited to see what opportunity might present for us. From our perspective, this is something we view as a way to engage additional fans.” 25 states, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico have voted to legalize sports betting since the aforementioned SCOTUS decision in May of 2018.
Not Everyone Favors Legalization
Some of the bill’s detractors argue that the money would not be used properly. Tucson State Senator Sally Gonzales fears that the money will be used to fund tax cuts for the wealthy and that Gov. Ducey will use the money as a way of turning Arizona into a zero income tax state. Sen. Gonzales is a member of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, which actually supports legalization efforts.
Gonzales believes any money generated from legalized sports betting should instead help fund education and cities while helping impoverished rural Native American communities. Gonzales argues that there are many tribes in the state that will be left out in the cold because they cannot afford to purchase sports betting licenses. Gonzales said, “The real losers will be the 17 rural tribes who probably can’t afford these licenses.”
While March Madness is one of the most popular sports betting events in the US every year, there are many that oppose wagering on college sports in Arizona. Sen. Gonzales is among them. The state’s three major universities have also come out in opposition of legalization, citing integrity concerns.
Advocates of legalized sports betting are optimistic that the industry will be online in the state of Arizona at some point before 2022.