After an unexpected delay, sports betting law supporters in Arizona are hoping to regain momentum this week.
A House committee tabled a 9: 1 sports betting bill last week, but a Senate committee postponed the vote on the accompanying bill a day later. Now the backers are trying to restart the complex sports betting process.
The House Rules Committee began this push on Monday when it found that the sports betting law was constitutional, a shallow decision that the law still pushes.
Sports betting supporters are now waiting for the second shot to get the Senate bill out of the trade committee when it meets later this week.
The backers also follow a separate, unrelated game bill that adds another variable to the precarious work of legalizing sports betting.
Historic Horse Racing Bill Could Change Sports Betting Path
A Senate committee will examine a bill to enable historic horse racing terminals on horse tracks. The terminals allow players to bet on previously held races and operate similarly to slot machines.
Legal in a few states, these machines are often more lucrative for the tracks than live pari-mutuel horse racing.
Arizona racing advocates estimate that live racing participation has decreased 45% since 2004, and that amount has decreased by $ 55 million a year during that time. Except for Arizona horse racing, the HHR bill would create nearly 4,000 new jobs and generate more than $ 100 million in tax revenue.
Republican Senator David Gowan, the former Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives who is now serving his first term in the Senate, is at the forefront of the HHR proposal. Gowan chairs the powerful budget committee that will begin the first vote on the bill later this week.
Gowan's bill is supported by the state racing industry, but is vehemently opposed by Indian game tribes. The tribes fear that expanding slot-like options to horse racing tracks would jeopardize their patronage.
This could jeopardize the comprehensive Gaming Compact more critically if it is about to be completed.
Republican Governor Doug Ducey said the pact that regulates and governs tribal casinos and their relationship with the government had been agreed in principle.
The deal would open the door to online and retail sports betting in tribal casinos as part of a larger deal that would expand other, more lucrative gaming options.
Any HHR piece of legislation from the GOP-led legislature could put Ducey in a difficult position if the tribes withdraw support for the pact. And without the contract, sports betting seems like a legislative impossibility.
Sports betting invoice details
The accompanying sports betting bills both in the House of Representatives and in the Senate would enable sports betting licenses for horse racing tracks as well as tribal casinos and professional sports stadiums.
Unsurprisingly, representatives from several professional sports franchises in Arizona and Native American tribes testified in support of the bill.
Officials from DraftKings, FanDuel and BetMGM also support legislation that would allow these sports betting operators – and others – to partner with casinos or professional sports venues.
In addition, Ducey championed the bill as part of the larger game compact negotiations. Ducey's legal betting office projects under this proposal could generate annual tax revenues of up to $ 42 million when market matures.
With the tribes, leagues, sports betting operators and the governor's office on board, stakeholders had been optimistic that a deal was imminent. Any major development as significant as the HHR terminals, however, threatens the alliance behind the sports betting bill.
Next Steps for Arizona Sports Betting
Two meetings later this week could help set sports betting hopes for 2021.
The Senate Committee for Funds is to take up the HHR bill at 2 p.m. Local time meeting Tuesday. The Senate Commerce Committee is expected to review the sports betting bill it passed last week at its next session on Wednesday at 2 p.m. Local time.
The HHR law could play a big role at Wednesday's trade committee meeting if passed by the budget committee the day before. There are four senators on both committees, which could give a feeling that sports betting is about to take place on Wednesday's expected vote.
The individual bills have no noticeable impact on each other, but could politically kill one or both of them.
The industry-backed push for HHR terminals could bolster legislative support, particularly with influential lawmakers like Gowan, but it could also jeopardize the advances made towards a sports betting law that all other stakeholders support.
After clearing some early hurdles, steps this week could very well determine whether sports betting continues its long journey through lawmakers or whether it faces a setback that makes legalization even more difficult.