Arizona was a surprise addition to the growing list of states to legalize sports betting in 2021. The momentum was growing, but negotiations between the Governor and the tribes in the state dragged on as the legislature worked toward its scheduled adjournment date: April 24th. There was controversy, a typo, poison pills, and pretty much everything else that can derail sports betting legislation. Yet at the last minute the stars aligned and an agreement was reached that provides licenses for both the tribes and the professional sports teams in the state.
Continue on for more information about how the legislation came about, why everything almost fell apart more than once, which operators will be coming to the state, when / what this means for bettors, and which sports will be available for wagering once sports betting is live in the Grand Canyon State.
Legal Gaming Apps in Arizona
Arizona’s path to legal sports betting
In most states the road to legalized sports betting is a bumpy one, filled with metaphorical potholes, both anticipated and unforeseen. It was no different for Arizona, where a simple typo almost derailed the entire effort as it was nearly complete. Let’s go over how we got from negotiations to full legalization.
Legislation to legalize sports betting was introduced in 2019, but it didn’t go anywhere due to limited support and sizable opposition from the tribes in the state. Most observers thought sports betting legalization would come to Arizona at some point post-PASPA, but there didn’t seem to be much urgency, particularly from the tribes, who seemed to be content with their existing operations and didn’t want any competition for gambling dollars spent in the state.
2021 legislative session
Things changed when COVID hit and decimated the state’s revenues. Travel and tourism are significant economic drivers in the state, with so many people traveling to the Grand Canyon and flocking to their Phoenix-area winter homes. With everyone staying put due to COVID, revenue plummeted as hospitality workers (and others) were laid off and unemployment rose to 7.8%. State leaders and Governor Doug Ducey, along with tribal leaders who also were dealing with reduced revenues at their casinos, looked around for potential revenue streams, and sports betting quickly emerged as a new source of revenue for the state.
“Collector car auction” trips up legislative progress
Even with the prospect of a new revenue stream for the state, sports betting legislation was stuck at the committee level until the end of March 2021. All of a sudden the state Senate appeared poised to pass a new version of the bill, but movement ground to a halt over a typo. The original plan was for all the professional sports teams in the state to receive a mobile sports betting “skin” or online license. This included the Phoenix-area golf course where the PGA Tour holds its annual event, and the racetrack where NASCAR races twice a year. But a typo in the new bill indicated that any “motorsports event” or “collector car auction” event with an average attendance of 150 would qualify for a sports betting license. That would technically mean that any bar or restaurant could apply for their own sports betting license by holding a “collector car auction” with at least 150 people in attendance.
Of course, that is not what the bill sponsors intended. They wanted for the language to say that a track or car collector event must have an average attendance of 150,000 – not 150, which would have qualified Phoenix International Raceway alone and not an incalculable number of AZ businesses. That single, easily fixable drafting error was enough to make the tribes nervous about who would end up being eligible for a license because the car collector language was not in any previous versions of the legislation. They were already giving up exclusivity for gaming in the state and did not want any surprises beyond what was agreed to.
Things were at an impasse for a few weeks in the legislature because one Senator wanted to expand gambling opportunities for non-tribal interests, which the tribes were expectedly opposed to. But the tribes needed to concede on some points because they also wanted to expand their own gambling opportunities to include additional casino games like craps and roulette in their facilities, so each side had some leverage. In the end, after some key conversations, the Senators were able to come to an agreement that the Governor and tribes both supported. The bill passed both the House and Senate before being signed into law by the Governor on April 15, 2021 at an elaborate signing ceremony.
Timeline for AZ sports betting launch
The bill has been signed into law and sports betting is coming to Arizona. But when? September 1st has been floated as a potential “go-live” date, but there’s optimism that the ball could get rolling sooner. Some states have taken over a year to draft and finalize rules overseeing sports betting, while other states have taken just a few months. Because the Arizona tribal compact must be approved by the federal government and rules still have to be drafted, there’s a lot to do. With that said, we anticipate the earliest Arizonans will be making wagers is some time in July, but everything should be ready to go by the start of the NFL season at the latest. Regardless, sports betting is coming to Arizona in 2021.
Sportsbooks coming to AZ
Now that you know how we got here, let’s go over which operators are likely to enter the Arizona market and what all this means for bettors in the state.
The legislation signed into law by Governor Ducey authorizes 20 online skins and 20 retail sports betting establishments. Ten licenses will go to the professional sports teams in the state and ten licenses will go to the state’s tribes. Each professional sports team qualifies for an online license and can also open a retail establishment onsite and within .25 miles of where they play.
Ten tribes can offer online sports betting and open a retail sportsbook at their existing casinos. We know which sports teams will get the licenses, since they are already playing in the state. It is not certain, however, which of the 22 federally recognized tribes will get the 10 licenses. Of those 22 tribes, 16 currently operate 24 casinos in the state (some tribes have more than one casino). Here’s how things are shaping up:
|Sportsbook Operator||Land-based Partner||Launch Date||City|
|Bally’s||Arizona Coyotes (estimate)||TBD||Glendale|
|BetMGM||Gila River Indian Community (estimate)||TBD||Chandler|
|Caesars Sports||Arizona Diamondbacks||TBD||Phoenix|
|DraftKings||TPC Scottsdale/Waste Management Open/PGA Tour||TBD||Scottsdale|
|Penn National/Barstool Sportsbook||Phoenix International Raceway (estimate)||TBD||Avondale|
|William Hill||Ak-Chin Indian Community||TBD||Maricopa|
|WynnBET||Phoenix International Raceway (estimate)||TBD||Avondale|
Arizona sports team partnerships
Let’s run down the list of professional sports teams in Arizona that are eligible for sports betting license, and what they’ve got in the works:
Phoenix Suns – NBA
The Suns were prepared, inking a deal with FanDuel even before sports betting was legalized. FanDuel has publicly announced plans to open a large retail sportsbook in the arena where the Suns play and is 99.99% likely to be the NBA team’s online skin when all is said and done. the Suns couldn’t have asked for anything more – FanDuel is amongst the industry’s top online bookmakers with successful operations underway in many states. They’re widely considered the top book in New Jersey, the first state to launch online betting.
TPC Scottsdale/Waste Management Open – PGA
No, a golf course/tournament is not a professional sports team, but the PGA Tour is definitely a professional sports organization and has already partnered nationally with DraftKings, the biggest operator in sports betting. DraftKings will bring its industry-leading operation to the acclaimed Scottsdale golf course by opening a retail sportsbook and operating an in-person sportsbook during the Waste Management Open, which would be a first for a PGA Tour event. This is all in addition to DraftKings likely being TPC Scottsdale’s online skin, granting them online access to the Arizona market.
Phoenix International Raceway – NASCAR
Phoenix International Raceway is home to two NASCAR races each year, including the Championship race. It is an important stop on the circuit. It is expected that the Raceway will receive a sports betting license through its partnership with NASCAR, and the track’s partner could end up being one of NASCAR’s official sports betting partners: WynnBET and Penn National/Barstool Sportsbook. WynnBET has already partnered with the Martinsville Speedway in Virginia and has a mobile presence in the Old Dominion. Its experience with NASCAR in Virginia could allow the company to seamlessly enter the Arizona market.
Arizona Cardinals – NFL
The Cardinals currently have no partnerships with any sports betting operators, but the NFL recently announced “sportsbook partnerships” with Caesars, DraftKings, and FanDuel, which are now the league’s “official sports betting partners.” Because of this, it stands to reason that the Cardinals could partner with Caesars and/or FanDuel as their online skin.
The Cardinals do have a partnership with Gila River Hotels & Casinos as the team’s official casino partner, but with both the tribe and team likely receiving an online license in addition to being allowed to house a sportsbook at their locations, there may not be an additional sports betting component added to their existing relationship.
Arizona Diamondbacks – MLB
In May 2021 the Arizona Diamondbacks announced that they had entered in to a 10-year sports betting license agreement with Caesars. As a part of the lucrative deal, Caesars Sports will bring its online sportsbook to Arizona in addition to opening a state of the art in-person retail betting facility at Chase Field in Phoenix. Known for having a swimming pool in the outfield, Chase will now feature a Caesars sportsbook, open 365 days a year.
Arizona Coyotes – NHL
The NHL’s Arizona Coyotes play in Glendale, a western suburb of Phoenix. The club’s home, Gila River Arena, is a long Kyler Murray throw away from State Farm Stadium, home of the Arizona Cardinals. Like the NFL and MLB, the NHL has come to appreciate sports betting. Hockey has really gone all-in, partnering with William Hill, PointsBet, BetMGM, and Bally’s, while even taking an equity stake in PointsBet. The Coyotes have no shortage of potential operators to choose from for their online sports betting partnership.
Phoenix Mercury – WNBA
The WNBA team is owned by Robert Sarver, who also owns the Suns, but the Mercury would clearly qualify for an online skin of its own under the approved legislation. It remains to be seen whether the team will pursue a retail and online sports betting partnership with an operator, but it is worth noting, as a league, the WNBA recently joined the NBA in naming MGM Resorts International its “official gaming partner.”
AZ tribal partnerships
As mentioned, it has not been decided how the 22 federally recognized tribes will split up the 10 sports betting licenses, but it is fairly safe to say that the 16 tribes that currently operate a casino have the inside track to get a betting license. Some of those 16 tribes, including Gila River, Ak-Chin, Salt River, and Tohono O’odham, operate large casinos and have existing partnerships with national brands such as BetMGM and Harrah’s (owned by William Hill/Caesars). The other tribes independently operate casinos and would likely be open to partnering with other national brands. It will be very interesting to see how this all plays out.
Sportsbooks (potentially) coming to AZ
- FanDuel – partnership with Phoenix Suns
- DraftKings – partnership with PGA Tour/TPC Scottsdale
- WynnBet – partnership with NASCAR
- Penn National/Barstool Sportsbook – partnership with NASCAR
- Caesars/William Hill – partnership with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Ak-Chin Indian Community
- BetMGM – partnership with NBA, WNBA, NHL, and Gila River Indian Community
- PointsBet – partnership with NHL
- Bally’s – partnership with NHL
- Golden Nugget
- theScore Bet
Potential betting markets
A market is a type of bet offered by a sportsbook. Over/under, spread, and moneyline bets are also called markets. These days, dozens, even hundreds, of markets are offered on every sporting event, from high-profile events like the Super Bowl and the Final Four to an ordinary Tuesday evening Diamondbacks-Brewers game. If there is a game, sportsbooks will offer you betting options on all aspects of the outcome. Plus live, in-game betting is continuously offered, almost down to each individual pass, hit or pitch. While we aren’t sure exactly which markets will be authorized in Arizona, here are some of the markets offered by most sportsbooks:
- Prop bets
Depositing to an Arizona online sportsbook
They’re not live yet, so we can’t use actual examples, but AZ bettors will have excellent banking choices when it comes to funding an account. They will range from the familiar, like credit and debit cards (VISA/Mastercard), paper and eChecks, and even cash in-person at the teller window, to some newer picks. PayPal is a big player in online sports betting transactions, as are services like PayNearMe (pay in-person at your local convenience store!), bank transfers, and even branded Prepaid Play+ cards. We’ll elaborate more on the available options for Arizona sports bettors once sites begin to go live, but rest assured with a regulated industry all available choices will be both fast, efficient, and safe.
Is sports betting legal in Arizona?
Sports betting was legalized in Arizona on April 15, 2021. Governor Doug Ducey signed legislation that allows for a total of 20 online licenses and 20 retail licenses, split evenly between the state’s professional sports teams and federally recognized tribes. That’s the good news. The less good news is that it will take several months to finalize the rules and get the regulatory framework in place. This means that while sports betting is legal, bettors won’t be able to place any bets until fall 2021 at the earliest. Lots of patience is still required, but that is nothing new for people waiting for sports betting in Arizona.
What are the requirements for participating in Arizona sports betting?
There are two main requirements that must be observed. First, you have to be 21 years old. If you’re not old enough, you’re not allowed to legally bet. Second, you will need to be in the state of Arizona when you submit your wagers. If you’re not in-state, they won’t be accepted. your mobile device (phone/tablet) will automatically determine where you are using your location services, or your computer will require a separate geolocation download. It’s all easy to configure though, don’t worry.
Why is legal sports betting great?
People in Arizona have been betting on sports for decades. Let’s not kid ourselves. Whether using a local bookie or an offshore sports betting operator, people have been betting and money has always been flowing somewhere. Legalizing sports betting and creating a regulated market is better for bettors in the state for many reasons. The biggest reason a legal, regulated system is better than an unregulated market is the protection it provides to the bettor. A bookie expects to get paid if your bet loses and you expect to get paid from him if your bet wins. But what protections are in place to ensure you actually get paid? None.
Deposits and withdrawals being protected is important for the bettor because it ensures your deposits are secure and you can withdraw your funds any time you want, pending operator approval. Another benefit of legal sports betting is the fact that sportsbooks are competing for your business. Bonus offers for new customers, loyalty programs, favorable lines, and a wide variety of markets are the norm, not the exception. Other positives of a regulated market include the fact that revenue generated from sports betting will be used by the state government to provide public services and the income generated by tribes will be used to further develop and support their members. All the money gained from legal Arizona sports betting will stay in-state.
Which sportsbooks will be in Arizona?
Most of the biggest sportsbooks will be operating in Arizona. There will likely be stiff competition for the 20 available licenses that grant entry into the lucrative market. The state has more than 7 million year-round residents, which is larger than many other states with legal sports betting. Add to that the many snowbirds traveling to the state every winter along with the millions of tourists who visit the many national parks in the state, and Arizona could quickly become one of the biggest sports betting markets in the country. Check the list above to see our current estimates for which bookmakers will be available in AZ.
Can I Play Daily Fantasy Sports in Arizona?
Yes! Now you can! While advancing with sports betting legislation, Arizona also took steps to finally legalize the popular DFS industry. DraftKings and FanDuel will not only be accepting sports bets in the state, but will also be opening their lucrative Daily Fantasy contests to Arizona players, too.
What else do I need to know?
- Sports betting is coming to Arizona, but not until fall. Still, that’s pretty quick, considering some other states have taken a year or more to finalize their rules and regulations.
- All the biggest operators are likely to be available in the state.
- You will be able to bet at your favorite tribal casino, sports venue, or online.
- You will be able to bet on all your favorite sports and many that you aren’t as familiar with, like cricket, rugby, Swedish soccer, and foreign basketball leagues.
- You will be able to make all kinds of bets, from in-play bets to futures, to moneyline and spread bets.
- Legal, regulated, betting is way better than unregulated, questionably legal betting because your deposits are protected and the money you spend stays in Arizona.
- Bets will be accepted in-person at brick-and-mortar sportsbooks, online using a designated Arizona sports betting mobile app (iOS and Android), and through web browsers from a desktop computer or laptop.