With Arizona on the verge of having sports betting live and operational by the start of the NFL season in September, one key player in helping the legislation go through the process and getting it approved was co-sponsor and first-year Sen. T.J. Shope.
Shope (R) took time to give his thoughts to BetArizona.com on how he got involved with the legislation and what it means to the residents of Arizona.
BetArizona (BAZ): Arizona sports betting is finally coming to the state — why now? What did you see in the legislation that made you become a sponsor of the bill?
Sen. T.J. Shope: We are all celebrating sports betting and while I wasn’t a party to the first few years of negotiations on what the bill and tribal gaming compact would like, I would occasionally hear about the progress of those negotiations.
My district includes two of the larger players in this arena in the Gila River Indian Community and the Tohono O’odham Nation, so I would say that it gave me more than a passing interest.
Being a sports fan and an Arizona Cardinals season ticket holder, it gave me an even bigger interest. When Gov. (Doug) Ducey’s team reached out to me in the late summer/early fall, I let them know that I would be honored to be a sponsor of the legislation, before I even knew what was in it and only operating on a verbal description of what the negotiations had settled out.
The picture became clearer the closer we got to the beginning of our Legislative Session (second Monday of January) and we were able to make some tweaks to the legislation several times before finally introducing it in late January.
BAZ: How will the new law impact Arizona’s economy? Who benefits?
TS: The great way that the legislation came about through intense negotiations is that the winners are obviously the tribes who get Las Vegas-style gaming at their casinos and their own sportsbooks, and also the Arizonans who get sportsbooks and access to gaming apps off-reservation.
Check Out:Arizona Should Be Major Betting Market
The funds generated off-reservation via this legislation will go straight to the state’s General Fund and tribes negotiated with the governor’s office to keep their contributions to the state essentially the same in their gaming compacts with a percentage of self-reported income being turned over to the state on a yearly basis.
Tribes in the state have seen the benefits of tribal gaming for the last 30-plus years and now the state, as a whole, will see benefits of increased revenue, without raising taxes.
Tribes On Board
BAZ: With over 30 tribal casinos in the state, how important was it for them to come on board for this new legislation?
TS: Under an amendment to Arizona’s Constitution passed by the voters in 2002, Arizona tribes had outright exclusivity to gaming in the state. The tribes were the 100% linchpin to this entire thing and it’s one of the reasons it is so monumental that we were able to get this accomplished.
In exchange for sportsbook licenses off-reservation, the governor’s office allowed for a greater expansion of on-reservation gaming in the form of every available table game currently played in Nevada, as well as, sportsbook licenses on-reservation. To have every tribe agree and sign their new compacts with the governor was a major victory.
BAZ: Any additional timelines, when is the launch set?
TS: The Arizona Department of Gaming (ADG) announced that the target date for the launch of event wagering will be Sept. 9.
The Future of Arizona Sports Betting
BAZ: Where do you see Arizona sportsbooks in the state, say in two-to-three years, when finally launched?
TS: I think that’s a great question. With tribal gaming having been around for over 30 years and with the more urban tribes who ring the Phoenix Metro and Tucson Metro areas being rather ingrained in Arizona’s culture, whether it’s from visits by locals or their sponsorship of various sports franchises and other entities, I don’t believe it changes our culture too much, if at all.
I do believe it makes a positive difference for the casual fan who may want to bet on the major sporting event and it makes a huge difference for the resident who wants to play fantasy sports for money.
Arizona has something that no other state has, except Florida, and that’s (MLB) spring training, which coincides nicely with the timing of March Madness.
We know in Arizona that upwards of 60% of the Cactus League’s attendees are visitors from out of state. Those folks are going to have options to bet on college basketball or any multitude of events while they’re here visiting our state in the spring and that’s just one example.
Arizona has always been a very successful tourist destination and now we can add event wagering/fantasy sports to the mix of options for people to take advantage of while here — so to all of my out-of-state friends, come on out and enjoy a ball game and the sunshine!