Arizona Legal Sports Betting Scene Taking Shape

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A.J. Green #18 of the Arizona Cardinals. Christian Petersen/Getty Images/AFP

The long-awaited Arizona legal sports betting scene is finally taking shape after Friday night’s announcement of the 18 licenses that have been issued by the state’s Department of Gaming. A total of 20 licenses had been allocated but as of the end of last week at total of 10 tribal licensees and eight professional sports licensees were announced, leaving two so far unfilled or rejected.

Legal sports betting is slated to go live in Arizona September 9, on the day the industry’s bread-and-butter NFL season officially kicks off. The Arizona market is expected to be one of the most successful “new jurisdictions” to join the US legal sports betting family thanks to it 7.3 million residents (14th in terms of population in the US), it having teams in all four North American sports and the rabid nature of the fanbase in the Grand Canyon State.

Professional Sports Licenses

As mentioned, there were 20 available legal sports betting licenses available in Arizona. So far 10 have gone to tribes and eight of the 10 set aside for sports organizations have been claimed.Bally’s has aligned with the WNBA‘s Phoenix Mercury, BetMGM and the Arizona Cardinals have a deal in place, Caesars Sportsbook and MLB‘s Arizona Diamondbacks got together, Penn National Gaming/Barstool Sportsbook and Phoenix Raceway are aligned, Rush Street Interactive/Bet Rivers and Arizona Rattlers (IFL) partnered up and the two DFS giants operating in the US legal sports betting scene have deals in place with the NBA‘s Phoenix Suns and TPC Scottsdale respectively.

Conspicuously absent from the list are the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes who were approved but failed to name a sportsbook provider and two IFL teams, the Tucson Sugar Skulls and the Northern Arizona Wranglers who were eligible and may/may not have received approval.

Tribal Licenses

All 10 of the Tribal licenses available in Arizona were awarded. Unfortunately, there were 16 Tribes that were chasing the opportunity to launch their own legal sports betting platform, meaning six got left out.

The Fort Mojave Indian Tribe and SuperBook Sports teamed up, the Navajo Nation has yet to name the sportsbook they are affiliating with, the Fort Yuma Quechan and Kindred/Unibet signed a partnership agreement, the Tonto Apache and Churchill Downs/TwinSpires will be working together, the Tohono O’odham Nation doesn’t have an announced affiliation just yet, the Hualpai Tribe and Golden Nugget are partners, the Ak-Chin Indian Community and Fubo Gaming have teamed up, the San Juan Souther Paiute and Betway signed a partnership deal, the San Carlos Apache and WynnBET signed Friday and the Fort McDowell Yavap has Betfred providing its legal sports betting services.

Exceptions That May Throw a Wrench Into the Plans

As mentioned, not all of Arizona’s Tribes, some of which had deals in place with sportsbook operators, were licensed by the Arizona Department of Gaming. Gila River Casinos, which has three facilities and a deal with BetMGM to provide services was perhaps the biggest omission from the list. The Yavapi-Apache Nation who has PointsBet in their corner was also left off the list.

PointsBet becomes the only major National provider to lose out on a license in Arizona. The Yavapi Prescott tribe was another that lost out on the licensing process, and on Thursday filed a lawsuit that could hold up the impending launch of the Arizona platform. They claim that the state’s new sports betting law violates the Voter Protection Act.

No Shortage of Drama

So, there is no shortage of drama surrounding the Arizona legal sports betting launch. Everything seems to be in place, minus a pair of licenses and some bad blood among the providers and tribes that lost out during the licensing phase. Sportsbooks officially started signing bettors up Saturday in anticipation of their official September 9 launch and featured a slew of early registration promotions and offers by the biggest names in the industry in order to woo their share of the market.

DFS kicked off in Arizona on Saturday as well. Through all of the drama, the Arizona scene looks ready for blast-off. All eyes of the industry will be on the state to see just where it lands on the list of bet-friendly states come October.