Newcomers in the online industry have the opportunity to break into the Arizona sports betting market.

New Online Operators Have Chance to Enter Arizona Sports Betting Market
Fact Checked by Young Ruth

The Arizona sports betting industry is poised for further growth as the state’s regulatory agency announces upcoming licensing rounds starting in mid-February.

The Arizona Department of Gaming announced on Tuesday that it will begin accepting applications for one tribal gaming license and at least one license for a professional sports team in compliance with the guidelines set forth in the 2021 sports betting legislation.

As per the ADG’s announcement, the application period for event wagering licenses will run from February 16, 2024, to March 4, 2024, ending at 5 PM. To be eligible for a license, all applicants must ensure that their applications are submitted within this specified time frame. All applications will be thoroughly reviewed by the ADG in accordance with the State’s event wagering regulations and laws.

After online operators with tribal partners TwinSpires, Unibet, and WynnBET announced their closures, a new license window has been opened in the Arizona betting apps marketplace.

TwinSpires, the latest Arizona online sportsbook to stop operating, revealed its closure in early 2022. Despite maintaining online betting services in collaboration with the Tonto Apache Tribe, the company officially ceased operations on December 15. According to the ADG’s revenue report in October, TwinSpires had the lowest handle among the 17 remaining operators at $77,099.

Arizona has the capacity to grant 10 tribal licenses and 10 licenses to professional sports teams for casinos. Currently, only eight out of the 10 professional sports licenses have been used.

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What is the next step in Arizona?

The identities of the applicants for the Arizona tribal sports betting license have not been disclosed, but it has been confirmed that Phoenix Rising Football Club, a USL Championship soccer team, will be competing for one of the sports team licenses.

In an email to yengols.com, Bobby Dulle, the president of Phoenix Rising Football Club, confirmed that the franchise will be seeking a sports betting license once more.

Dulle announced that Phoenix Rising FC intends to seek an event wagering license specifically for Arizona Sports Franchises from the Arizona Department of Gaming. As the top professional soccer team in Arizona, Rising is optimistic about its prospects for obtaining a license within the next year.

Rising, the club that went on to win its first USL Championship title in 2023, was initially denied a license during the state’s first licensing window in August 2021. However, when the ADG reopened applications in August 2023, the club explained that its betting partner had failed to submit the application on time.

Bet365 Sportsbook Arizona received approval from the ADG in August, in partnership with the Ak-Chin Indian Community. While Bet365 has not yet started operating in Arizona, it is expected to be up and running in the near future.

In October 2022, Fubo Sportsbook, the Ak-Chin tribe’s first online partner, shut down. The tribe operates Harrah’s Ak-Chin Hotel and Casino, which houses a Caesars Sportsbook retail location. The Caesars Sportsbook Arizona betting app is licensed in collaboration with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Since the licensing window opened in August, three of the state’s original 10 tribal license holders have had their betting partners announce closures. These tribes include the San Carlos Apache with WynnBET, Tonto Apache with TwinSpires, and Quechuan Tribe with Unibet.

The spokesperson for the San Carlos Apache Tribe declined to comment on their online sports betting plans to yengols.com, while the Tonto Apache Tribe representatives did not respond to several requests for comment.

Despite the announcement of Unibet’s closure, the Arizona site is still operational. Charles Montague, CEO of Paradise Casino and Quechuan Casino Resort, confirmed in December that the tribe is prepared to step in and assume control of Unibet’s operations.

Montague has informed yengols.com that they are currently in the market for a new online sports betting partner. They are currently in discussions with vendors they have previously engaged with and are contemplating replacing Unibet, who may be departing in the second quarter. Montague clarified that this transition will not have a significant impact on their physical operations, as they simply need to find a new vendor to manage sports betting.

This week, Montague and other tribal gaming officials from the Quechuan Tribe did not reply to emails or phone calls from yengols.com.

What Industry Experts Expect

The future of the remaining Arizona sports betting licenses is uncertain, but industry veterans like Brendan Bussmann from B Global Advisors expect a high level of interest in the market.

Bussmann pointed out that most key participants are currently in Arizona, posing a challenge in securing additional team licenses. He has been a strong proponent of granting these licenses to tribal nations for partnerships, to prevent the state from losing out on revenue and stifling market competition.

Bussmann believes that the continued expansion of Arizona sports betting, with nearly $13 billion in wagers since its inception in 2021, presents a compelling opportunity for niche operators looking to carve out a place in the market.

Bussmann predicts that with the increasing number of mergers and acquisitions, new competitors will likely enter the market for brands that are currently absent. He also anticipates that daily fantasy sports players, such as Underdog in other industries, will begin to venture into this market.

Arizona sports betting has experienced year-over-year increases in total handle for seven out of the first 10 months of 2023, even with changes in operators. This growth can be attributed, at least in part, to the promotions offered by AZ sportsbooks.

Daniel McIntosh, a teaching associate professor at Arizona State University, suggests that there is evidence to indicate that operators are interested, with three of the state’s seven $600 million handles expected in 2023 and likely more to follow in November and December.

McIntosh pointed out that although the numbers from October showed a 10% increase in handle for the first five months of the fiscal year compared to the previous year, there is still a need for wagering.

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Author

Peterson Christopher

Peterson Christopher, with more than seven years of experience reporting on sports and sports betting in Arizona, currently serves as the lead writer for yengols.com. Before taking on this position, he has written for reputable publications including ArizonaSports.com, the Tucson Weekly, and the Green Valley News.

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