Sen. Gonzales Decries Arizona Sports Betting Bills in Legislature as Harming Tribes

Sen. Gonzales Decries Arizona Sports Betting Bills in Legislature as Harming Tribes
By Christopher Boan
Fact Checked by Michael Peters

A pair of Arizona sports betting bills making their way through the legislature would alter the state’s market.

Both Arizona House Bill 2456 and Senate Bill 1459 are related to betting in different ways, with HB 2456 allowing the Arizona Coyotes to keep their sports betting license when they temporarily move to the new multipurpose arena at Arizona State University in 2022.

SB 1459 would cap all daily fantasy sports and sports betting taxes at 10%, formalizing text in HB 2772 — the bill which legalized wagering in 2021.

Both SB 1459 and HB 2456 are Republican-sponsored pieces of legislation. Sen. Sonny Borrelli and Rep. Joseph Chaplik sponsored 1459, while Rep. Leo Biasiucci and Borrelli are behind 2456.

None of the three legislators returned requests for comment. Democratic Sen. Sally Ann Gonzales of Tucson told BetArizona.com both pieces of legislation are a poison pill for the state’s tribes.

Gonzales, who is a member of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Southern Arizona, called the 2022 sports betting bills a further degradation of the tribes’ gaming exclusivity, which was granted by the state’s 2002 Gaming Compact that permitted tribal casinos and other gaming activities on native land.

“These bills mean that less money (from sports betting and DFS play) are going back to the state and (operators) get to keep more money,” Gonzales told BetArizona.com. “That’s why I voted against both. I think these bills continue down the same road as (HB 2772 last year), where less money from gambling goes toward the state’s general fund.

“The citizens of Arizona gave Indian tribes that exclusivity to do gaming, and these bills, just like HB 2772, continue to take that back.”

When sports betting debuted in Arizona in September, tribes gained the ability to open retail sportsbooks on tribal lands. But tribes received only 10 of 20 mobile sports betting licenses from the state. The other 10 went to professional sports teams, two of which have never been awarded.

From September through January, Arizona mobile sports betting has collected $2.3 billion in handle and operators have paid almost $8 million in taxes. Arizona set a record with $563.6 million in handle in January.

A Tough Pill for Arizona’s Tribes to Swallow

The two Arizona sports betting bills in the legislature could further stoke anger and litigation against the state, similar to the ongoing suit filed by the Yavapai Prescott Indian Tribe in August.

The YPIT and the state are nearing a settlement in their lawsuit, according to the most recent court filings.

Derrick Beetso, the director of Arizona State University’s College of Law Indian Gaming and Self Governance Programs, said in an email to BetArizona.com that the bills could be viewed by tribes as another step toward crushing gaming exclusivity.

“Each of these bills is contrary to the interests of tribal governments, especially in light of the licensing discrepancy under current law which only provides license opportunities for less than 50% of Arizona's tribes,” Beetso said in an email. “One bill would place a cap on the amount of fees tribal licensees could require of fantasy sports contest operators in the state at 10% of adjusted revenues, and the other provides generous exceptions for sports wagering licensees other than tribal governments that still do not have a complete and permanent facility to operate their license on.”

Both HB 2456 and SB 1459 are currently in the Senate, with the former most recently passing through the Committee of the Whole on April 11, while the latter passed the House on its third reading by a 39-18 margin with three members abstaining.

Gonzales said she plans on voicing her opposition to the bills, regardless of how far they make it in Phoenix.

While both 1459 and 2456 are alive, the betting bill Gonzales sponsored is stalled.

SB 1674 would have given the state's 22 federally recognized tribes Arizona betting apps licenses. Gonzales says it shows the state cares more about sports team owners than those who have called Arizona home the longest.

“On (sports betting and DFS play), they’re still paying for exclusivity, and they don’t have exclusivity anymore,” Gonzales said of the state’s Indian tribes.

Beetso said tribes in the state will likely feel scorned by the sports betting bills that have made their way through the legislature.

“I do not believe tribal governments were consulted on these bills and they seem to favor third parties and sports franchises over tribal interests, which is concerning from an equities standpoint,” Beetso said.

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Christopher Boan is the lead writer at BetArizona.com after covering sports and sports betting in Arizona for more than seven years, including stops at ArizonaSports.com, the Tucson Weekly and the Green Valley News.

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