It has been more than 290 days and $3 billion in wagers since Arizona sports betting launched, and the state has no plans of slowing down.
Ted Vogt, who has served as the director of the Arizona Department of Gaming since 2019, said the $3.4 billion in wagers between September and March, along with the successful integration of 18 operators, shows the health and vitality of the market in the years and months to come.
“I think things have gone really well in these first nine months,” Vogt told BetArizona.com Monday. “Other than New York, we were the fastest state to hit a billion-dollar handle. I think if you look at the figures from September to March, we’ve had almost $3.5 billion in handle and $3.2 billion in payouts.
“So, the industry got up and running quick here, and it’s been really impressive to see the demand be so high and sustained through the first year.”
With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility
Vogt remarked upon the many successes and relative failures of new Arizona sports betting apps, calling the lightning-fast launch a high note and putting the state’s slow reporting of handle figures and other financial datapoints in the latter camp.
He said the inability to get all 18 of the licensed sports betting operators up and running in time for the state’s Sept. 9 launch was disappointing, but the companies should make up for lost time.
“This has been a learning process for everybody, both for the department and the operators as well,” Vogt said. “So, I think that people will see (monthly handle reports become) more timely, but we’re sticking to the reporting structure that’s in our rules.”
As for the high point of Vogt’s tenure, at least since the launch of sports betting on the NFL’s opening day last fall, the steadfast demand for wagering has been in a league of its own.
Vogt believes Arizona’s pent-up demand for wagering will keep the marketplace among the nation’s leaders going forward, even as more states come online.
“I think the biggest surprise for me is the pent-up demand,” Vogt said. “Arizonans have been wagering a lot of money … So, things have gone very, very well here in the state of Arizona.”
Status of Yavapai Prescott Indian Tribe Lawsuit
Another point Vogt hammered home during his chat with BetArizona.com was that the state’s final two mobile sports betting licenses should be awarded once litigation is wrapped up.
Arizona HB 2772, which legalized wagering in 2021, allocated 20 licenses, split evenly among tribes and professional sports teams.
Of those 20, only 18 were awarded last year by the department, with Vogt saying the ADG has plans to allocate the remainder as soon as possible. The two remaining licenses are dedicated to professional sports teams.
“One of those licenses is tied up in litigation right now, so we’re working through that process,” Vogt said. “And I think once we’ve got a better idea on where the litigation is going to go, then we would look to go ahead and start the process of allocating those final two licenses.”
The only known running litigation the ADG has at the moment is the suit brought by the Yavapai Prescott Indian Tribe last August, which sought to invalidate the 2021 gaming compact and law on the grounds it violated the state’s Voter Protection Act and Prop. 202, which legalized gaming on tribal land.
Vogt said the tribe has officially signed onto the 2021 gaming compact, which it previously had abstained from doing, meaning the only thing standing between the two sides and resolution is approval from the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
“When it comes to litigation, the proceedings against the state and the (Maricopa County Superior Court) are currently stayed pending resolution,” Vogt said. “… So, I imagine once the federal government signs off on the compact and all of that, the whole matter will be wrapped up and resolved pretty quickly.”
How to Create a More Even Sports Betting Playing Field
On the topic of sports betting parity, Vogt believes the operators that have raked in a smaller portion of the wagering pie will have plenty of opportunities to catch up.
So far, only six of the 18 operators in Arizona have taken more than $100 million in wagers (DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM Sportsbook Arizona, Caesars Sportsbook, Barstool Sportsbook and WynnBET), with the remaining 12 generating roughly $49.4 million in handle.
“Most of those (operators) that are in the second or third tier came online a little bit later than that first tier that was ready to go (on Sept. 9),” Vogt said. “I think it’s going to be a while until we really know how the market settles out. In the legislation that was enacted, the operators have about five years’ worth of free bets credits that they’re utilizing, to lower the cost of starting up business in the state.
“So, we haven’t even completed the first full year of event wagering here in the state. We are seeing operators utilize these free bet credits, which means they are signing up new players. So, I think as we move through these next couple of years, we’ll get a better idea of how the market is going to shake out here in the state.”
How Big Events Could Push Arizona Sports Betting to Next Level
Another trump card Vogt brought up is the fact Arizona is hosting Super Bowl LVII next February, becoming the first market with legal sports betting to do so.
Vogt said the ability to host the Super Bowl at Glendale’s State Farm Stadium should propel Arizona sports betting to the next echelon, in terms of revenue and stature.
“The football season is really what drives a lot of this industry,” Vogt said. “But I think we're really excited. We're going to be hosting the Super Bowl in February … So, it’s very exciting. I have to almost remind people, we're not even a whole year into (sports betting) yet. And so, the market is really developing, we're really putting the pieces in place. That's really going to set the growth for this industry for the next five years.”