It’s been roughly five months since Jackie Johnson was appointed as the director of the Arizona Department of Gaming, and the longtime tribal law expert has fully bought into her new role.
The former senior associate for Rothstein Donatelli and associate for Quarles & Brady has gotten quite the crash course in the intricacies of Arizona sports betting and fantasy and fighting sports — all of which are part of the ADG’s regulatory portfolio.
Since taking over for former Director Ted Vogt on Feb. 21, Johnson has overseen a department tasked with regulating the country’s 10th largest wagering market (by betting handle). Johnson has seen her fair share of obstacles, mixed in with an equal share of opportunities.
“I would say the challenges [of this role], for me, coming from a tribal gaming background is learning the other areas the department regulates. Because the industries are very different,” Johnson told BetArizona.com. “… But from my end, one of the challenges that I’ve been embracing is just learning these new industries, like boxing, MMA and horse racing, in how the department regulates those. So that's been my biggest learning curve.”
Building Responsible Gaming Infrastructure In Arizona
Johnson’s path towards the ADG began with her law school experience at the University of Michigan, where she was the co-chair of the Native American Law Students Association and the associate editor of the Michigan Journal of Race and Law.
From there, Johnson set her sights westward, working as a summer associate at the Navajo Housing Authority and at Hobbs, Straus, Dean & Walker in Window Rock and Washington D.C., before joining Quarles & Brady as an associate in 2008 and Rothstein Donatelli in 2013.
Those stops gave Johnson a crash course in a number of tribal-related subjects, while preparing her for a jump towards gaming regulation.
They also allowed her to see the progress her predecessors like Vogt made regarding tribal gaming and Arizona betting apps, which is something Johnson is looking to build on moving forward.
“Since I've been here for about four months, I think a lot of it is just working and building upon what the prior directors have built here,” Johnson said. “The department is very strong and has lots of experience and expertise in the various areas. And so I think what I've been doing here is continuing what we're good at, but then also looking if there are areas that we can improve upon and identifying any areas that we can build upon.”
Where Johnson Wants To Lead The ADG
With more than $10 billion in wagers placed and millions in tax dollars generated, there’s little doubt sports betting (and the numerous Arizona sportsbook promo codes regularly featured) has been a smashing success story, Johnson said, though there are still areas where the state’s wagering and casino markets can improve.
Mainly, Johnson wants to ensure the department does its due diligence in allocating the final two professional sports team and lone tribal wagering licenses. The department will begin taking applications Aug. 1.
If all three licenses are awarded, Arizona would reach the state’s 20 allotted sports betting licenses for the first time.
“One of the things that I'm looking forward to is kind of doing a review of our rules in various industries; to see whether there are areas that we can provide more clarity, consistency, and so doing those internal reviews to kind of see where we can improve,” Johnson said. “Getting feedback from the stakeholders, especially with event wagering being less than two years old here and there's a lot of movement and feedback coming in.”