Gov. Doug Ducey wants to open the door so Arizonans can wager on sports, fantasy leagues, and even instant keno games.
And he wants to allow mobile devices to be used to place bets.
And all of this would be available without a reservation.
Now he needs Arizona law to repeal the laws that now prohibit such gambling.
In a document to lawmakers, the governor said he had negotiated a new contract with tribes of Arizona that now gives them the exclusive right to gamble in casino style in Arizona, albeit with certain restrictions.
The deal, he said, will result in both more revenue for the tribes and more money for the state, which currently receives a share of the tribal revenue.
“Our goal is to bring Arizona gambling into the 21st century,” Ducey press secretary CJ Karamargin told Capitol Media Services.
“A lot has changed since we signed the first contracts when cell phones weren’t what they are now,” he said. “The world looks very different today and our proposal should reflect the way people live their lives today.
What the opening gives Ducey is that the current 20-year contracts, which were approved by voters in 2002, are gradually running out.
The tribes are interested in getting the income flowing. And for the governor, revised contracts are a way to generate additional state dollars, not only without levying new taxes, but potentially also providing cash for the tax cuts lawmakers are expected to pass this year.
What also helps is that in 2018 the US Supreme Court enacted a 1992 federal law prohibiting most states from allowing such wagers. The majority concluded that protecting professional and amateur sports is an unconstitutional move by Congress to tell states what they can and cannot do.
Ducey has long been keen to generate additional dollars by expanding gambling, and said at the time it created “a significant opportunity” for the state.
Ducey tried to fund part of his teacher salary package in 2018 by convincing Arizonans to play keno, a game where players pick multiple numbers and wait to see how many match those on a computer. Keno is already an option when making reservations.
However, the Arizona Lottery-powered off-reservation keno plan had to be scrapped after it appeared to violate existing tribal treaties that prohibited the state from playing new games that were not allowed at the time the 2002 deals were approved were.
New compacts offer new opportunities for change, as long as the tribes see this to their advantage.
The bigger change would be betting on sports.
Karamargin wouldn’t say if this was limited to professional sports or if there would also be ways to bet on college games like there are in Nevada.
Sports games outside of the reservation already exist in Arizona.
This is not just about horse racing and betting on the tracks. There are also more than 50 off-track betting sites across the state, mostly in bars, where Arizonans can now place bets not only on the ponies running in the state, but also on horse races and dog races across the country.
Vince Francia, general manager of Turf Paradise, which runs most of these OTB websites, said he was counting on receiving some of these sports bets.
In his message to lawmakers, Ducey said his goal was to expand gaming that was “limited and well regulated”. Francia said the OTB websites fit in here.
“It’s already regulated by the state,” he said. But Francia said it was also financially beneficial to the state.
“It gets the product to most people in a very efficient way,” he said.
Efforts were already made in 2019 to enable betting on sporting events.
Senator Sonny Borrelli’s proposal, R-Lake Havasu City, would have allowed each tribe to operate multiple OTB facilities at bars using remote devices or kiosks, with the state receiving a portion of the amount of money spent there. He envisioned about 100 of these locations.
But that plan fell apart when Ducey said he wanted such a plan to be part of renegotiating tribal treaties, rather than a separate effort.
Any plan for an extended off-reservation game could provoke contradiction.
When Ducey sought keno to help pay teachers in 2018, he drew fire from Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy.
“Keno is a predatory game of chance,” she told Capitol Media Services at the time. She said other states sell keno tickets in “family restaurants” and sports bars, which is particularly addicting for hours of drawing.