Last year, a bill was introduced to the Arizona legislature that would have given the state’s tribes the chance to let sports betting be allowed at locations not on their reservations. In 2019, that bill went nowhere, but the issue will be dealt with again since it was recently reintroduced.
The main issue is that it is probably against the gaming rules that the Arizona tribes have in place.
In 2019, bill SB 1525 only reached a second reading, and that was when it was filed as bill SB 1158. Arizona Senator Sonny Borrelli and Representative Steve Pierce sponsored the sports betting bill last year, and they are ones behind the push to get it into law this year.
Getting the betting bill passed through the legislature in Arizona will only be getting halfway there. In order for SB 1525 to be put into law, a referendum would have to take place where the voters of the state would have to approve.
SB 1525 is a bill that is not hard to understand. There are 22 tribes in the state of Arizona that are recognized at the federal level, and 16 of those tribes run the 24 Arizona casinos. The casinos could have the opportunity to offer sports wagering on-site with retail sportsbooks or betting kiosks.
In terms of SB 1525, there is no authorized online or mobile wagering, which is a big issue in and of itself.
Any sporting event that is prohibited by the NCAA would not be able to be wagered on, but that is a pretty minor issue considering the NCAA is not allowed to ban betting on its sporting events.
The Federal Rules
One of the reasons that the bill in question is a little murky is that in the language, it points to betting in areas that are not located in tribal areas. The bill states:
“An Indian tribe that is authorized to operate sports betting pursuant to this section may operate sports betting through kiosks or similar machines that are located at one or more premises that have a bar license, a beer and wine bar license or a private club license that is issued pursuant title 4 and may enter into a lease or rental agreement for the purpose of operating sports betting with a person that holds a bar license, a beer and wine bar license or a private club license.”
The aforementioned language above is good to appease the Arizona tribes and offer sports wagering all around the state. However, it is unlikely that that will happen because of the law that is currently on the books. Last year a federal bill was filed by a representative in the state of New York to let wagers like the ones mentioned be legal by altering the current law.
The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) has made its stance crystal clear in terms of where tribal gaming can take place. Basically, gaming can only take place on tribal lands or in areas that are in trust.
This is according to chapter 29 section 2703, but that section does have exceptions. However, it forbids the tribes from entering into agreements, which would deviate from gaming taking place on tribal lands.
In looking at in-depth figures for Arizona, it would be beneficial for the state if they let the tribes enter into those types of agreements. SB 1525 would put a limitation on rented or leased-out betting kiosks to the number of gaming machines specifically allowed in the Arizona compact.
In early February, Arizona has the allowance of 20,500 gaming machines, and there are 15,600 that are currently in use. That is a discrepancy of about 3,900 gaming machines that can be put into use all around the state by Arizona’s 22 tribes.
However, this would be allowed only if there are not any slot machines added to the tally.
The tax revenue for the gaming machines would be to the tune of 6.75 percent. This would allow Arizona to get a tax revenue stream from sports wagering in the state even though it technically is a game operated by the tribes.