Will Arizona Legalize Sports Betting?

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It has been a roller coaster for Arizona sports betting in 2020. The state has worked tirelessly to figure out a way to legalize it, and they have not found any luck. State lawmakers are working on ways to get sports betting bills through legislature while simultaneously getting tribal leaders backing in the bills.

Arizona only has tribal casinos in the state, so trying to legalize sports betting with their support has been tough. The state also wants to legalize sports betting for commercial use, forcing tribes to balk at the idea instead of working with lawmakers.

“You have to have all the tribes (in the gaming compact) agree and sign off on to anything additional or expansion in the compact, they all have to agree,” said Senator Sonny Borrelli. “It comes down to the gaming compact and how flexible it is. The first step is getting the tribes to be on board with it, and then you have to go through the state side of it.”

Arizona has 22 tribes in the state but will need at least 51% approval to legalize sports betting.

Getting the Tribes to Back a Bill

Arizona tribal casinos have the upper hand in the push to legalize sports betting. First, they are the only ones that operate any gaming facilities in the state. For Arizona to legalize sports betting, they would have to give up some gaming rights to allow sports betting to go through.

The state of Arizona would like to capitalize on the sports betting industry, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. States have been facing budget deficits and have been using sports betting as an outlet to help generate revenue.

This is where Arizona lawmakers have been trying to work with tribal groups to legalize sports betting. However, tribes have been on record saying they are happy with how gaming and business are going for them and that they do not feel the need to legalize sports betting.

This could also be because they know non-tribal groups will find ways into casinos and sports betting and taking away revenue from the tribes.

Will the Tribes Cave?

Right now, there looks to be little hope for tribes to work with Arizona lawmakers before 2020 is over.

However, there could be hope down the road. Arizona Tribal-State Gaming Compact is run by 16 of the tribes in the state and is the reason why sports betting will not pass. For the industry to move forward, the ATSGC would have to have 51% approval for Arizona’s sports betting.

Navajo Nation is one of the 22 tribes in Arizona and the largest tribal group in the state. However, they are not apart of the Arizona Tribal-State Gaming Compact.

The goal for Arizona to legalize sports betting would be for Navajo Nation to get on board. If they can do so, they could start to sway other tribes trying to get the industry legalized. Reports have come out saying that Navajo Nation would favor legal sports betting, so although things look bleak in 2020, there is always hope for sports betting in 2021.