Legislators are evaluating Arizona's sports activities gaming measure

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By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services
PHOENIX – State lawmakers begin dismantling the gaming agreement Governor Doug Ducey requires them to do.

At a hearing this week, members of the Senate Commerce asked Anni Foster, the governor's attorney, about the measure that would, for the first time, legalize the ability of Arizonans to bet on the outcome of sporting events, as well as some of the individual things that could happen during a game.

The same measure would authorize betting on "fantasy sports" leagues. And social organizations like veterans clubs could play keno with multiple games per hour.

SB 1797 cleared the committee with 6-3 votes. But even some of the lawmakers who agreed to take the measure to the next step were less than happy with what they were learning and suggested that they might run into opposition.

Among the topics:
– To give sports teams, some of which are Ducey owners, the exclusive right to take bets on sporting events and not allow others to bid for that right;
– Arizona Board of Regents opposition to a provision in the Ducey Plan that would allow Arizonans to bet on the outcome of college sporting events;
– Requires bar owners to get at least some of the action and like social organizations to have keno games too.

And then there's the governor's secrecy over the details of a parallel deal he is entering into with tribes to expand their own casino operations.

This includes the fact that the pact will enable new tribal casinos in the Phoenix area, including at least one that is not on the current reservation. The governor's office will not disclose the locations. This is covered by an agreement with the tribes to keep this information secret, at least for the time being, also from residents of the affected communities.

However, information obtained from Capitol Media Services shows that the City of Glendale has just signed an agreement with the Tohono O'odham Nation to set up an earlier contract for the annexation of property the tribe already owns along the Cancel loop 303 on Northern Parkway. This seems to pave the way for the tribe to build a new casino there, as federal law rules out creating a new reservation – a requirement for tribal gaming – on land within a city boundary.

If the questions are not answered to the satisfaction of the majority of legislators, the whole thing will explode.
This is because the current gaming compacts give the tribes a veto right over any new form of off-reservation gaming. And they won't agree if they don't get what they want including new games and this new casino.

Conversely, if the legislature ultimately does not approve what is included in SB 1797 for extended off-reservation games, the tribes will not get the right to expand their activities.
Although the move was approved by the Senate Commerce Committee earlier this week, there is still a long way to go, including review by the Budgets Committee and then by the entire Senate and House. And some of the lawmakers say they still have questions.

That stems most quickly from the fact that Ducey won't be publishing exactly what he promised the tribes, including where new casinos might end up in the Phoenix area.
Senator Tyler Pace, R-Mesa, said that was not acceptable. Pace said he and his colleagues want to see what Ducey promised before deciding whether to approve the legislation.

While Pace in Arizona opposes expanded gaming of any kind, hesitation in other lawmakers is less about the concept of gaming than the specifics of who gets what.
It starts with the legislation that there will be up to 10 franchises authorized to place bets outside of the reservation at sporting events.

To be more precise, these are only permitted by law to operators of professional sports. That is, the owners of baseball, basketball, soccer, hockey, golf, soccer, and motorsport franchises.
Otherwise nobody has to apply.

This annoyed Senator Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, who wanted to know why she shouldn't open this privilege to others who might be willing to offer more for the right.

"Why not a restaurant trying to compete on a license?" She asked, saying an owner could then get a deal with an experienced sports betting company. "I don't understand the need for the sports team." & # 39;

Then there is the fact that the 10 teams accept bets on their own games.
"It stinks of a conflict of interest," said Ugenti-Rita. "In my opinion it doesn't look good."
Pace was more clearly concerned about the arrangement.

"So I play the game, but am I also the house to wager?" He asked Foster.
"I'd say that's kind of right," she admitted. But Foster insisted that the teams have both the experience and the financial resources to build and run what she believes is a low-margin business.

Pace remained unconvinced, saying he saw no reason why the State Department of Gaming, which already regulates tribal casinos and would have control of off-reservation gambling, could not consider other applicants.

The Board of Regents' contradiction shows a new fold.

On the one hand, the deal allows for fairly wide-open gaming in professional sports. This includes not only the result of a game or the distribution of points, but also certain elements, e.g. B. How many strikeouts a pitcher receives.

There is no similar provision for so-called "prop" bets on university sports. Lobbyist Brittney Kaufmann told lawmakers, however, that it was unacceptable to bet only on the outcome of games played by student athletes at the three state universities

"This bill would put Arizona citizens under pressure to compete," said Kaufmann. And college game betting could add to school costs and liability.

So far, her offer to remove college bets from the bill has been unsuccessful.
While universities want less, bar owners want more.

"Our facilities are also looking for a way to compete," said Don Isaacson, who advocates for licensed bars and restaurants.

He pointed out that the only thing they have now is the option to sell lottery tickets. And Isaacson warned that if they don't get keno now, it will pretty much lock them out for the next two decades, the length of the deal that Ducey is pushing.