Senator Gonzales criticized the Arizona sports betting bills in the legislature, stating that they are detrimental to tribes.

Sen. Gonzales Decries Arizona Sports Betting Bills in Legislature as Harming Tribes
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Two bills related to sports betting in Arizona are currently making their way through the legislature and are expected to have a significant impact on the state’s market.

Arizona House Bill 2456 and Senate Bill 1459 both have ties to the gambling industry, but in distinct manners. HB 2456 focuses on the Arizona Coyotes, granting them the ability to keep their sports betting license while they temporarily move to the new multipurpose arena at Arizona State University in 2022.

SB 1459 suggests capping the tax rate on daily fantasy sports and sports betting at 10%, in line with the guidelines established in HB 2772, the law that permitted sports wagering in 2021.

Both SB 1459 and HB 2456 are bills sponsored by Republicans. Senator Sonny Borrelli and Representative Joseph Chaplik sponsored SB 1459, while Representative Leo Biasiucci and Senator Borrelli are the sponsors of HB 2456.

Despite multiple requests for comment, none of the three legislators provided a response. Democratic Sen. Sally Ann Gonzales from Tucson expressed to yengols.com that both bills would negatively impact the state’s tribes.

Gonzales, a member of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Southern Arizona, characterized the 2022 sports betting bills as further diminishing the tribes’ exclusive rights to gaming. These rights were initially granted through the state’s 2002 Gaming Compact, permitting tribal casinos and other gaming operations on native lands.

Gonzales told yengols.com that the bills would lead to a decrease in revenue for the state from sports betting and DFS play, allowing operators to retain a larger portion of the profits. This is why he opposed both bills, citing similarities to HB 2772 from the previous year, which also reduced the amount of gambling revenue allocated to the state’s general fund.

The exclusive right to conduct gaming was granted to Indian tribes by the citizens of Arizona, but bills like HB 2772 are now attempting to take away that privilege.

In September, sports betting was introduced in Arizona, allowing tribes to operate retail sportsbooks on tribal lands. However, out of the 20 mobile sports betting licenses issued by the state, only 10 were granted to tribes. The other 10 licenses were given to professional sports teams, including two that had not previously obtained licenses.

From September to January, Arizona’s mobile sports betting industry had a total handle of $2.3 billion and operators paid nearly $8 million in taxes. January set a new record with a handle of $563.6 million in bets placed in the state.

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Arizona’s tribes find it difficult to accept the harsh reality.

The introduction of two sports betting bills in Arizona’s legislature could further intensify ongoing tensions and legal disputes with the state, mirroring the lawsuit filed by the Yavapai Prescott Indian Tribe in August.

According to the most recent court documents, the YPIT and the state are nearing a resolution in their legal dispute.

Derrick Beetso, director of Arizona State University’s College of Law Indian Gaming and Self Governance Programs, expressed in an email to yengols.com that tribes may view the bills as an additional challenge to their gaming exclusivity.

In an email, Beetso stated that neither of the bills are beneficial for tribal governments, especially considering the current licensing imbalance that allows less than half of Arizona’s tribes to obtain licenses. One bill would restrict the fees that tribal licensees can charge fantasy sports operators to 10% of their earnings, while the other bill includes notable exemptions for sports betting licensees that are not tribal governments and do not have a fully operational facility for their license.

Currently under consideration in the Senate are HB 2456 and SB 1459. On April 11, HB 2456 successfully passed through the Committee of the Whole, while SB 1459 received approval from the House on its third reading with a vote of 39-18, with three members abstaining.

Gonzales made it clear that she plans to voice her opposition to the bills, regardless of their success in Phoenix.

As long as bills 1459 and 2456 are still active, Gonzales’ sponsored betting bill is on pause.

SB 1674 was designed to provide Arizona betting app licenses to the state’s 22 federally recognized tribes. Gonzales feels that this shows the state favoring sports team owners over the indigenous population that has lived in Arizona for many years.

Gonzales pointed out that despite no longer having exclusive rights, the state’s Indian tribes are still paying for exclusivity in sports betting and DFS play.

Beetso voiced worry that the tribes in the state might feel overlooked by the sports betting legislation being approved by the legislature.

Beetso raised the issue that tribal governments were not included in the decision-making process for these bills, and it seems that the bills prioritize the interests of third parties and sports franchises over those of the tribes. This lack of consultation and skewed priorities is concerning in terms of fairness.

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Author

Peterson Christopher

Peterson Christopher, with over seven years of experience covering sports and sports betting in Arizona, now heads the writing team at yengols.com. He has previously worked at ArizonaSports.com, the Tucson Weekly, and the Green Valley News.

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