Arizona sports betting law permits statewide mobile betting and retail sportsbooks at tribal casinos and qualifying sports stadiums.
Lawmakers approved sports betting legislation in April 2021, but it will still be some time before the first Arizona sportsbooks receive licenses and begin taking wagers. Currently, state officials hope to see the first legal wagers placed by the start of the NFL season later this year.
Arizona also recently legalized daily fantasy sports through the same legislation approved in April.
Other Arizona gambling options consist of tribal casinos, parimutuel horse racing betting, and the state lottery.
Arizona Sportsbooks and Betting Apps
Legal sports betting is coming to Arizona.
State lawmakers passed SB 1797 in April 2021 to legalize retail sportsbooks, mobile betting, and daily fantasy sports. Governor Doug Ducey signed the bill into law shortly thereafter.
The Arizona Department of Gaming (ADG) will draft additional regulations to fill in the details, but the key points from the new sports betting law follow:
- The ADG will regulate and oversee sports betting
- The ADG will adopt regulations to provide further details on matters such as the tax rate and licensing process
- Permits wagering on professional and college sports, the Olympics, and esports
- Ten sports betting licenses reserved for Arizona tribal gaming operators
- Ten sports betting licenses reserved for professional sports organizations
- Licensees may operate retail sportsbooks on premises and offer statewide mobile betting
Now, the ADG must complete additional regulations, review licensing applications, and issue approvals to operators. The ADG hopes to see the first Arizona betting apps and sportsbooks launch on September 9th, 2021. Readers can learn more about the process at the ADG website here.
Arizona Daily Fantasy Sports
Arizona was one of just ten states to outlaw daily fantasy sports until recently. State lawmakers included provisions legalizing and regulating DFS contests in the bill that legalized sports betting in April 2021
The Arizona Department of Gaming holds regulatory power over daily fantasy sports and may approve additional regulations as needed. The ADG must also establish a licensing fee for fantasy contest operators.
Key points from Arizona’s fantasy sports law:
- Minimum age of 21 to play
- Operators must provide self-exclusion tools to customers
- Operators must identify highly experienced customers with a symbol attached to their names
- Operators must segregate customers’ funds from operational funds
The first fantasy operators will open for business after receiving licenses from the ADG.
The legalization of fantasy sports in Arizona in 2021 was a long time in coming. Lawmakers first attempted to legalize fantasy sports in 2014 when they introduced SB 1468 as an amendment to ARS §13-3301. However, the Arizona Indian Gaming Association lobbied strongly against the bill, and it never made it to the Senate floor.
Horse Racing Betting in Arizona
Horse racing betting is legal in Arizona and regulated by the Division of Racing under the Arizona Department of Gaming.
State law permits in-person wagering at racetracks and authorized off-track betting locations (OTBs). You can see a complete list of OTBs here.
Advance deposit wagering (online betting) is also legal but subject to oddly specific regulations. The only mainstream racing betting site that accepts Arizona customers today is TVG, and certain restrictions apply:
- TVG customers may only wager on tracks provided by Turf Paradise
- All wagers must be phoned in via TVG’s automated phone wagering service
- Customers may log in to TVG.com to view the odds and view live racing video but may not place wagers online
Arizona outlawed live greyhound racing via HB 2127, which Governor Doug Ducey signed into law in 2016. Tucson Greyhound Park held its last race that June to finally close the door on greyhound racing in Arizona for good. However, state law still permits greyhound simulcasts and off-track betting on greyhound races held elsewhere.
Today, there are three active horse racetracks in Arizona and one greyhound track that offers simulcasting only.
Arizona Online Gambling
Legal online gambling is unlikely to come to Arizona any time soon.
Local lawmakers, including the late John McCain, worked tirelessly to block any legislation favorable to online gambling while they were in office. Their anti-online gambling legacy significantly slowed efforts to authorize online gambling, although Arizona’s passage of sports betting legislation in 2021 may signal changing attitudes.
However, Arizona legislators have made zero serious attempts to legalize online poker or casino games to date. For anything to change on that front, lawmakers would need to introduce new legislation from scratch in concert with tribal casino operators who hold considerable political power via gaming compacts they have with the state.
Interestingly, the Pascua Yaquis tribe once operated a play-money online casino that included elements of real money play. The official website for the Casino del Sol in Tucson once had an area where visitors could log in to play virtual slot machines and blackjack tables.
The casino would start customers start with one million chips free of charge. When those play chips ran out, the casino gave players the option to pay real money for more virtual chips. The concept of paying for chips that cannot be cashed out or used to win prizes failed to generate much interest, and the tribe eventually shuttered the operation.
Arizona Betting and Gambling Laws
Arizona law prohibits all gambling that is not conducted either a) as a social game in which no one runs the game for a profit or b) is conducted by an authorized gambling operator such as a tribal group.
The state code defines gambling as follows:
“…risking something of value for an opportunity to win a benefit, which is awarded by chance.”
Anyone caught “benefitting from gambling” can be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor which is punishable by a fine of up to $2500 and up to six months in jail. Class 1 misdemeanors are the most serious form of misdemeanor under Arizona law.
The law does not explicitly mention online betting, but these broad definitions could easily be construed to apply to gambling at online casinos.
State law provides an exception for social games not conducted for a profit, but organizers should speak with an attorney to ensure any game they are considering hosting does not violate state law. Authorities routinely raid live poker games and charge people with the promotion of gambling offenses.