The marketplace for sports betting in Arizona has taken off in the 40 days since launching Sept. 9.
The Grand Canyon State ranked in the top five out of 18 states and the District of Columbia in geolocation firm GeoComply’s list of NFL sports betting transactions (36.9 million) — giving a hint to what the opening month's figures will look like when the Arizona Department of Gaming releases them next month.
So far, eight sportsbook operators have launched in Arizona — BetMGM Arizona, Caesars Sportsbook Arizona, DraftKings Sportsbook Arizona, FanDuel Sportsbook Arizona, Penn National Interactive/Barstool Sportsbook, TwinSpires Sportsbook Arizona, Unibet Arizona and WynnBET Arizona.
Others, such as Fubo Gaming and Bally’s Arizona, appear set to open mobile sportsbook operations either in the fourth quarter of 2021 or early 2022.
Eight others, including the Golden Nugget, BetRivers/Rush Street Interactive, Digital Gaming, Bet365 and Betfred, have yet to declare when they plan on launching operations in Arizona.
Arizona Punching Above its Weight Class
The opening six weeks of online sports betting in Arizona have been positive, according to Brendan Bussmann, who is a partner and director of global affairs for Global Market Advisors, a consulting firm that specializes in the gaming market.
Bussmann believes the Arizona marketplace has the potential to meet or exceed what has been done in neighboring Colorado, which passed sports betting via a proposition in 2019.
“It's a positive start, based on what we've seen,” Bussmann told BetArizona.com. “Obviously, there's a lot that still needs to happen, especially when it comes to what will happen with the brick-and-mortar facilities that are coming into play, and that obviously will continue to be developed. But I think what we saw out of the chute, and what we continue to see, is Arizona looks to be a strong sports betting market.”
So far, Colorado has raked in north of $3 billion in sports wagers and $10 million in tax dollars since May — figures Bussmann sees Arizona replicating in the future.
“Each market’s different as it goes through the regulatory structure; but prior to (launch date) I would have put (Arizona’s market) in line with a Colorado type atmosphere,” Bussmann said. “Where you have strong affiliation for local teams, and you've got a good population base that has an interest in sports.
“And so, I thought, (of Arizona) as a similar state out in the west to Colorado. Obviously, it must be seen if that comes to fruition. But obviously, with mobile almost all statewide, it helps with that effort.”
Where Does Arizona’s Market Go from Here?
Bussmann and others are keeping an eye on who else will receive licensure in the state of Arizona.
One party that stands out in that regard is the Arizona Coyotes of the NHL, who were one of eight Arizona teams to get a license in September but have yet to announce who they’re partnered with.
A spokesperson for the franchise declined multiple requests from BetArizona.com to comment on the team’s sports betting plans in the future.
Bussmann believes the Coyotes have a strong standing in the sports betting sphere, especially given the reports of a new arena coming in Tempe for the franchise.
“I think the Coyotes continue to be a little bit of a mystery,” Bussmann said. “I would say rumor has it they wanted to sort of figure it out on their own and be able to go about it with more of an internal solution.”
Aside from the Coyotes, there remains the question of who will be the final two parties to receive a sportsbook operator’s license in Arizona.
That question comes after the Arizona Department of Gaming awarded 18 licenses before launch.
The state has up to 20 licenses available, split evenly among professional sports teams and tribes in Arizona.
Maxwell Hartgroves, who is the department’s public information officer, said there have been no plans as to when the final two licenses will be awarded.
“I do not have any information for you on this at the moment,” Hartgroves said in an email to BetArizona.com. “The Department will determine the process for allocating the remaining event wagering licenses at a later date.”
Bussmann believes it’ll be difficult for the department to award the remaining two licenses, given the lack of “professional” teams in the state — using the stipulations given in the 2021 gaming compact.
The lack of teams meeting that description means licenses are going to waste, Bussmann said, which is one weak spot in the compact that he’d like to see changed.
“It's going to be difficult to get to that full 20 based off the two being on the sports side of the bucket if you want to call it that,” he said. “Because there are very few organizations that are going to meet the criteria that was established as part of the law.
“From the beginning, I think we saw this when applications were submitted, is the tribes shouldn't have been limited in the number of licenses, as they were statewide. And I always thought that was a flaw in the legislation. Because you left tribes hanging that had an interest to do mobile to be able to do that.”
What Will September’s Handle Reveal?
Though we won’t know the full financial impact of the opening month of sports betting in Arizona until next month, Bussmann is confident the state’s inaugural handle will be impressive.
The longtime analyst is confident that — between the surge in transactions surrounding the opening month of NFL betting and the demand for college football and WNBA basketball — Arizona will put up a big number in September.
“I don't want to necessarily put my myself on a number just because I think it’s yet to be determined how the weeks after that check out, but I expect a strong number and probably one that will also set some records along the way,” Bussmann said.