Arizona Committee Moves Sports Betting Proposal Forward

By Jake Perper

February 27th, 2019 - 3:32pm

In August, the chances of sports betting legislation being passed in the state of Arizona seemed rather slim.

An impasse between the state government and Native American tribes jeopardized sports betting plans on the table. Last week, the Arizona Senate Public Commerce Committee postponed two different conversations scheduled to discuss sports betting legalization.

However, a sports betting bill made progress Tuesday in a crowded Senate hearing room.

The votes

The Appropriations Committee voted 6-3 to move SB 1163, the freshly named sports betting bill, forward in the legislative process.

Republican senator Sonny Borrelli of Havasu City used a strike-everything amendment to SB 1163, which had been a prostitution bill. That amendment gave him the power to take away the original wording of the bill and replace it with the new one. This new bill would allow legal sports betting in Arizona, giving exclusive rights for bets to be made at facilities run by the Native American tribes.

A commercial relationship with the tribes would be required. Tribal-owned booths in bars and other private venues would have the power to use betting capabilities.

“I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of seeing our money going to Nevada and tired of seeing our money going off-shore,” Borrelli said Tuesday according to the Business Journals. “In my book, options equal freedom and (this would) allow our citizens to participate in games they like.”

Progress made

Borrelli shook things up after the original sports betting bill, SB 1158, couldn’t make it out of the Arizona Senate Public Commerce Committee over the past month. That led to Borrelli’s usae of the strike amendment to bill SB 1163, which meant another committee took a look at it.

Arizona would take a percentage of the money gets wagered on at the tribes' facilities if the bill passes.

Now the focus will be getting the Native American tribes on board and convincing them.

Tribes' thoughts and plans

According to the Arizona Department of Gaming’s annual report, the tribes which operated casinos in Arizona have totaled just north of $1.9 billion over the past fiscal year.

The tribes have run casino gaming in the state for 30 years.

Per, Borrelli's bill would let tribes set up remote wagering sites at three kinds of places: Full bars, bars licensed to serve beer and wine only, and fraternal organizations like the VFW that have liquor licenses.

The idea is to ensure that only people 21 or older can gamble.

Tribes can opt in or opt out, Borrelli said in the meeting, if the bill passes.

The Native American tribes attending Tuesday were against the bill expect the Navajo Nation, which is facing a bad economy and serious struggles, Council Delegate Otto Tso said.

Simply, the tribes want more power in the negotiating process and don’t want the sports betting legislation passed without more discussion. Borelli reiterated that the tribes could negotiate among themselves for how they want their locations operated specifically.
Written By
Jake Perper

Jake Perper covers gambling news for He has been a sports writer for a decade, covering every level of sports.

He’s currently the lead scout for Prep Hoops Florida based out of Tampa, Florida and has covered the Chicago Bears for the... Read More

Jake Perper covers gambling news for He has been a sports writer for a decade, covering every level of sports.

He’s currently the lead scout for Prep Hoops Florida...

.. Read More