rizona Gov. Doug Ducey wants to pave the way for commercial, statewide sports betting, wagering on fantasy leagues and instant keno games, and to allow mobile betting as well.
With that aim, the Arizona Legislature would have to repeal the laws that now prohibit such gambling. In a document given to lawmakers Wednesday, the governor said he has negotiated a new compact with Arizona tribes, which have the exclusive right to operate casino-style wagering in Arizona, with certain limits. Ducey, in his message to lawmakers, said his goal is having expanded gaming that is “limited and well-regulated.”
The governor said the new deal will result in more revenue for the tribes and more money for state government, which currently gets a share of tribal gaming revenues. “Our goal is to bring Arizona gaming into the 21st century,” Ducey press aide C.J. Karamargin told Capitol Media Services. “A lot has changed since the first compacts were signed, back when cellphones weren’t the thing they are now. The world looks a lot different today and our proposal is intended to reflect the way people live their lives today.”
Ducey has that opening because the current 20-year compacts, approved by voters in 2002, are going to be expiring. The tribes are interested in keeping the revenues flowing. And for Ducey, revised compacts are a way to generate additional dollars for the state without imposing new taxes at a time he wants lawmakers to enact more tax cuts.
Ducey has long been interested in generating more money through expanding gaming. He attempted in 2018 to fund part of his teacher pay package by convincing Arizonans to play keno, which already is an option on reservations. But the plan for off-reservation keno, run by the Arizona Lottery, had to be scrapped after it appeared to run afoul of the existing tribal compacts, which prohibit the state from running new games that were not already allowed when the 2002 deals were approved. New compacts provide opportunities for change as long as the tribes also see benefits. Renegotiated compacts would not require voter approval.
There already is a kind of off-reservation sports gaming in Arizona. That’s not just horse racing and placing bets at the tracks. There also are more than 50 off-track betting sites scattered throughout the state, mainly at bars, where Arizonans can now place bets not only on the ponies running in the state but on horse and dog races throughout the country. Vince Francia, general manager of Turf Paradise, which runs most of those OTB sites, said he is counting on getting a piece of the sports wagering Ducey proposes.
There was a prior effort in 2019 to allow wagering on sports events, but that plan fell apart when Ducey said he wanted any such plan to be part of the renegotiation of tribal compacts and not a separate effort.