The Arizona Department of Gaming has set a provisional launch date of September 9 for legal sportsbooks to go live in the state. The US Department of Interior has now ratified the new tribal-state gaming compact, which paves the way for legal sports wagering to get underway in Arizona. The legal framework is in place and operators will now spend the next three months preparing to launch.
The proposed date coincides with the opening day of the new NFL season, which sees reigning Super Bowl champions Tampa Bay Buccaneers face Dallas Cowboys. The Arizona Falcons will begin their season by hosting the Philadelphia Eagles three days later, giving sportsbooks plenty of time to recruit new customers ahead of the game. The legalization bill, signed into law by Governor Doug Ducey, permits 20 retail sportsbooks and 20 online skins.
Ten of the licenses have gone to the state’s professional sports teams or venues, while the other 10 were awarded to tribes. They can each host one online betting company skin on their licenses. FanDuel has already agreed on a deal with Phoenix Sons, Caesars Sports has partnered with Arizona Diamondback and DraftKings teamed up with golf course TPC Scottsdale. They can all launch a retail sportsbook within a quarter of a mile of those venues, along with their online sportsbooks. William Hill has teamed up with Ak-Chin Indian Community. BetMGM, Bally’s, Barstool Sportsbook and WynnBET are all expected to launch too.
The Department of Gaming began drafting its sports betting regulations in April, and it must publish a first draft by June 14. There will be a seven-day public consultation period, and then the Department will file amended rules and prepare for the operation start date. According to a new timeline on its website, that tentative operational start date is September 9.
Arizona will become one of the largest states with legal sports wagering. Out of the states that currently permit online sports betting, only Pennsylvania, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey and Virginia have larger populations. It is slightly smaller than Virginia and larger than Tennessee in terms of population and GDP. That could give an indication about the potential size of the market.
Tennessee recently became the quickest state to break through the $1 billion sports wagering handle barrier. Tennessee Lottery chief executive Rebecca Hargrove confirmed that the state took $1,077,844,523 in wagers during its first six months of operations, between November 2020 and April 2021. No state had reached $1 billion in wagers in a quicker timeframe. Michigan has since broken that record, but it could soon be eclipsed by Virginia.
Sportsbooks in Virginia have taken $863.5 million in a little over three months since legalization. The industry went live in Virginia on January 21, and operators took $58 million in the first 11 days. The handle hit $265 million in February, and it shot up to $304.1 million in March, thanks largely to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
The handle dipped 22% to $236.4 million in April, according to a release from Virginia Lottery, but that was to be expected. All other states saw their handle dwindle in April due to a March Madness hangover. FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM, BetRivers, William Hill, Wynn and Unibet are all live in the state. The adjusted gross revenue for April was $11.4 million, after $5.5 million in bonuses and promotions was deducted. That resulted in tax of almost $1.7 million for the state, which takes a 15% cut of adjusted gross revenue.
Arizona has four major pro sports teams – the Falcons, Suns, Diamondbacks and Coyotes – which is more than Tennessee or Virginia. It could also potentially rival Nevada in terms of attracting sports betting tourists from neighboring California. Arizona therefore has the potential to become a major hub of sports betting in the United States, and the likes of FanDuel and DraftKings will be aggressively battling for market share when it launches.
The Tennessee Education Lottery will stop regulating the state’s legal sports betting industry by the end of 2021. It will pass the baton to a new regulator called the Tennessee Sports Wagering Advisory Council on January 1, 2022. It follows a difficult year in which the Lottery failed in its bid to suspend a local online sportsbook called Tennessee Action 24/7.
The Lottery is seemingly happy to pass on the responsibility of running the state’s legal sports betting industry. Hargrove said the team was “elated” after Governor Bill Lee signed a bill that transferred the powers to the Sports Wagering Advisory Council. “We believe our organization is an operational organization that acts more as an operator than a regulator,” she said. “So to have a regulator regulating sports betting is a very positive outcome. So we are very happy and are anxious to work with you on how to best implement what you need to implement.”
There are five license applications currently pending, as operators clearly appreciate the potential of the Tennessee sports betting market. WynnBET is the latest brand to go live in the state, and it has a marketing collaboration in place with the Memphis Grizzlies. It is on an ambitious expansion drive, and it has launched in Indiana, Virginia and Tennessee. The brand is now live in six states and it has tied up market access opportunities in Nevada, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts and Ohio.
WynnBET uses a Scientific Games’ OpenSports wagering platform, just like FanDuel, BetMGM and William Hill. “Three new state launches in quick succession showcases the huge craving for sports betting experiences on the biggest sporting events throughout the US and beyond,” said Cathryn Lai, senior vice president and US general manager at Scientific Games. “This is an exciting and important milestone in our partnership with WynnBET. These launches are also a testament to the power of OpenSports, with the platform ready to take the player offering in these three states to new heights.”