Nearly two years after Arizona sports betting launched with 18 licensees, the Department of Gaming will open up the application process for three more slots.
The ADG announced the news Friday morning, putting to rest questions about when the Grand Canyon State would expand to the maximum of 20 wagering licenses set forth by HB-2772, which legalized sports betting in Arizona.
The department said in the release that applications for three wagering licenses (two for professional sports teams and another for a tribe in the state) would open Aug. 1, with the window closing Aug. 15.
In addition to the application timeline, the ADG said it plans on hosting an informational webinar July 17, three days after the department will post its updated application forms and guidelines on its website.
“The application window for event wagering licenses will open on August 1, 2023 and will close on August 15, 2023,” the ADG’s release states. “Applicants must submit their completed applications within this timeframe in order to be considered for a license. ADG will thoroughly evaluate all applications received based on the established criteria pursuant to the State’s event wagering rules and statutes.”
How We Got To This Point
The road to Friday’s license update from the ADG began in September 2021, when the ADG formally approved 18 Arizona betting apps licenses, with 10 going to operators partnered with tribes in the state and another eight (of 10 available licenses) to operators partnered with professional sports teams.
Of the 10 tribes that received a license, the Ak-Chin Indian Community outside Phoenix, lost its gaming partner when Fubo Sportsbook closed its sports betting operation in October.
It’s believed the tribal license available is the one originally given to the Ak-Chin. Attempts to reach the tribe were not returned.
The tribe currently has a retail sports betting partnership with Caesars Sportsbook Arizona — the Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino has a Caesars-branded sportsbook.
According to the ADG’s sports betting rules, an operator applying for one of the two open “professional sports team” licenses would be required to play in a venue that has at least 10,000 seats.
The Cardinals, Coyotes, Diamondbacks, Rattlers, Suns, Mercury, the TPC Scottsdale and the Phoenix Speedway all have mobile sports betting licenses. Horse race track Turf Paradise was denied a professional sports team license in 2021 and currently holds a limited event wagering license good for retail sports betting only.
Which Betting Companies Might Step Up?
One candidate for an Arizona sports betting license is Fanatics Betting and Gaming, which launched its sports betting platform on a retail basis in Maryland (through their partnership with the Washington Commanders) in January and the beta version of their mobile platform in May (in Tennessee and Ohio).
Fanatics is on track to acquire the U.S. sports betting assets previously held by Australian conglomerate PointsBet for $225 million, withstanding a counteroffer by American gaming giant DraftKings Sportsbook worth a reported $195 million.
PointsBet doesn’t hold a license in Arizona. DraftKings Sportsbook Arizona is partnered with TPC Scottsdale. It plans to open its retail location at the home of the Phoenix Open in 2024.
Other candidates to bid on a license could be Jake Paul’s Betr brand, which is currently live on a mobile basis in Ohio and Massachusetts, and other more niche brands like Tipico Sportsbook and Bet365.
Will Remaining Licenses Receive Heavy Interest?
Brendan Bussmann, who serves as the managing partner of gaming consultant firm B Global, told BetArizona.com he’s unsure what the level of demand across the industry will be for one of the final three betting licenses in the state.
Much of that belief is centered around Arizona’s stronger-than-expected performance through 20 months of reporting — with more than $10 billion in wagering handle, $450 million in gaming revenue and close to $46 million in taxes since launch in September 2021.
Bussmann said his expectation is for Fanatics and Bet365 to be among the operators to be interested, though more parties could enter the fray come August. A representative from Fanatics declined to comment on the company’s plans in Arizona.
“Right now you have three potential licenses since the state shorted the tribes on the number of available mobile licenses,” Bussmann said. “I’m not sure there are two other teams out there that meet the criteria. I think the bigger Arizona team question is finding a home for the Coyotes than finding operators when there were many team licenses to begin with.
“If you look at markets that have available licenses, it makes a heck of a lot of sense to go to a market like Arizona than it does some of the other markets around the country that are creating hostile operating and tax environments for regulated operators."