Labor Day Weekend Betting News Roundup


Here’s your roundup of recent sports betting news playing out across the country as Labor Day weekend concludes:

Lawsuit in Arizona

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed sports betting legislation into law on April 15, 2021, paving the way for legalized sports gambling that aimed to launch in partnership with the state’s tribal casinos on the opening day of the NFL season – Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021.

That finish line now faces a possible detour as the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe brought a lawsuit against Gov. Ducey and Ted Vogt, the Arizona Department of Gaming director.

An evidentiary hearing set for Labor Day by James Smith, Superior Court Judge in Maricopa County, stemmed from the Arizona Tribe alleging it was forced into an updated tribal gaming compact in addition to claiming the legislation Gov. Ducey signed into law is unconstitutional. The compact also legalized Daily Fantasy Sports, which took effect on Aug. 28, and select-location Keno.

Two other Arizona Tribes, the Tonto Apache and Quechan, recently filed a notice of intent to block the Yavapai-Prescott lawsuit.

“We invested hundreds of thousands of dollars and an extraordinary amount of work to secure our mobile wagering license, which will open up considerable new opportunities for our tribe,” Quechan President Jordan Joaquin said in a statement. “It is very unfortunate to see the Yavapai seek to unravel all this progress after they chose to sit on the sidelines during our compact amendment negotiations.”

“We sought to engage Yavapai leaders in developing strategies that would benefit small, like-minded tribes like ours, but they declined, saying they would simply sue if they were unhappy with the outcome of negotiations.”

Tonto Apache Chairman Calvin Johnson,

No matter Judge Smith’s ruling, or when it comes, it’s expected the decision will be appealed by the losing side. These developments squeeze the tight window for Arizona sports betting to hit its target launch date, which currently coincides with one of the biggest nights on the American sports calendar.

A previous suit brought by Phoenix horse racing track Turf Paradise was dismissed. Turf Paradise was denied a request to obtain an event wagering license to operate a sportsbook at its track because “the race track doesn’t meet the law’s qualifications, according to the lawsuit,” as reported by Jeremy Duda of the AZ Mirror on August 27, 2021.

This decision by the ADG led the track’s owners to ask for the launch of sports gambling in Arizona to freeze until the state gaming department heard their appeal. Subsequently, Judge Smith didn’t accept the lawsuit from Turf Paradise’s owners, deciding the Arizona gaming department’s appeals process was the apt place for it.

Arizona debated sports-betting legislation for four years before the April 2021 breakthrough, preceding by a year the United States Supreme Court’s overturn of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in May 2018 that struck down the federal ban on individual states authorizing sports betting.

Arizona became the 26th state, including Washington D.C., to legalize sports gambling. Every U.S. state except Utah has some form of sports gambling legislation in the works at varying stages. All this within just three years. Utah’s state constitution has anti-gambling baked into its language.

Arizona’s sports-betting legislation allowed for its professional sports teams to partner with sportsbooks:

  • NFL’s Arizona Cardinals – BetMGM
  • NBA’s Phoenix Suns – FanDuel
  • MLB’s Arizona Diamondbacks – Caesars
  • NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes – None yet

The Diamondbacks plan to open a retail sportsbook with Caesars in 2022 located adjacent to Chase Field ballpark. State Farm Stadium, home to the Cardinals, is expected to house a BetMGM sportsbook by the 2022 football season. The Suns are building a FanDuel sportsbook inside its Footprint Center arena. A retail sportsbook at TPC Scottsdale also is in the works, expanding the commercial relationship between the PGA Tour and DraftKings.

Sports betting is the latest gambling venture to enter Arizona as the state already allows wagering on horse/dog racing and the lottery.

Sports betting approval in Washington State

Nine tribal casinos in the state of Washington entered into the Federal Registry, green-lighting them to officially offer sports betting to customers. A target date is Sept. 9 when the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the Dallas Cowboys.

This recent news is the culmination of a long stretch of tribes operating the bulk of Washington state’s casino gaming for decades and received sports betting last March.

The state allowed limited gambling at “cardroom” casinos with blackjack and poker, and horse racing ovals as alternatives to gambling at Native American casinos.

This now has changed.

Washington’s Senate Labor, Commerce & Tribal Affairs Committee held a public hearing on Feb. 4, 2021, on Senate Bill 5212 – bi-partisan legislation introduced the month prior to expanding sports betting to the state’s licensed cardrooms and horse tracks, according to the Associated Press.

Lawmakers snubbed a similar expansion bill in a previous session to grant sportsbooks to non-tribal gambling operations but approved sports betting legislation for Native American casinos. Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee signed it into law and took effect when compact negotiations between the state and tribes were completed.

Proponents of the bill, sponsored by state Republican Sen. Curtis King and Democratic Sen. Marko Liias, said the expansion would create jobs and increase tax revenue. Opponents, however, stated it would take money from poorer communities and cause tribes to lose revenue used to fund their operations and social programs, according to an AP story addressing the topic.

“This is our tax base,” said Rebecca George, executive director of the Washington Indian Gaming Association. “It’s irresponsible for the legislature to allow sports betting to the benefit of out-of-state people.”

Nevada-based Maverick Gaming operates 19 cardrooms in Washington and has backed both bills. Its owner, Washington native Eric Persson, said the current bill would allow each property to hire 15-20 more employees, adding to the company’s roughly 2,000 already working in the state, according to the aforementioned AP story.

This bill, Persson also said, would generate around $50 million a year in tax revenue for state and local governments. But that figure was questioned by George and Democratic Sen. Derek Stanford.

“Their estimates are widely inflated or they’re talking about a massive expansion,” George said during an interview with Seattle’s KIRO-TV news station. “The gaming dollars in this state don’t support the claims whatsoever.”

Stanford said, “That (figure) does not seem possible to me.” The senator estimated upwards of $4 million in revenue is what Washington would see, according to the AP story.

Whatever the amount, added revenue from expanded sports betting could aid the state economy’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and would give cardrooms and horse tracks the opportunity afforded to tribal casinos.

The American Gaming Association said taxed revenue has been a lifeline during the pandemic for the now 26 states and the District of Columbia that have legal sportsbooks. Washington became the 21st state to legalize sports betting.

“What I can say is when we look at national studies, one of the primary determinants of gaming expansion is fiscal pressure from budget deficits,” said Kahlil Philander, an assistant professor at Washington State University. “So, that can be a motivating factor for different actors to expand gaming from one set of policies to another.”

Philander noted that factor “isn’t a Washington thing. This is a thing that we observe in other states or even internationally.”

“This is about fairness,” Sen. King said of SB 5212. “We need to share the wealth. We need to take care of the state of Washington as well. Tribes, as you know, have rights to the casinos and the vast majority of the gambling that goes on in-state, and they make millions of dollars off that every year. This (bill) doesn’t touch any of that.”

The Washington State Gambling Commission looks to work with the bill’s sponsors to address what the state commission called “technical” concerns, including areas of the legislation that lack clarity because of how it’s currently written.

George urged the new proposal again be rejected by Washington state lawmakers.

“They are here to advance the bottom line of a Nevada company,” she said.

Persson said during an interview with KIRO-TV his company respects “the rights that tribes are getting in sports betting, so we’re not going to go live until their compacts are done.” 

He added Maverick Gaming will continue to seek a stake in the state’s sports betting action.

“Maverick Gaming is going to be pushing for this until we bust down that door,” Persson said.

Mobile betting launches in Wyoming

Two of the online sports betting industry’s titans went live in Wyoming on Sept. 1, delivering on the deadline set by The Wyoming Gaming Commission. Sports gamblers in the state now can play from their mobile phone on DraftKings and BetMGM, which currently are the only two books approved by the WGC.

The Commission’s next meeting is set for Nov. 5 and marks the potential next round for sportsbook operators to apply for licenses into the Wyoming market. Barstool Sportsbook and FanDuel sent written requests regarding interest in planting their respective flags in the state.

BetMGM expands to Caribbean island

BetMGM plans to launch mobile sports betting throughout the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico with a retail sportsbook at the Casino Del Mar at La Concha Resort, its land-based partner.

The sportsbook operator and island resort stated the launch will be “as soon as the regulated market commences in Puerto Rico.”

For decades, Puerto Rico has housed casino gaming and incorporating mobile and retail sports betting with a recognizable U.S. brand is a major step for the island whose population is just over 3 million.

SLING TV launches new channel

Chord cutters using the streaming service SLING TV now have a channel dedicated to the Barstool Sports platform.

“The Barstool Sports Channel delivers various sports and pop culture content covering the latest news and viral highlights,” SLING TV stated in a news release on Sept. 3, 2021.

Blogs, video podcasts, and series will be offered from Barstool’s portfolio of content.

This new channel also is available to SLING Free users.

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Mario Sanelli writes about sports betting for BeerLife Sports. He previously was the editorial assistant and a general-assignment reporter at The Denver Post for five years after serving as chief editor of The Metropolitan at MSU Denver. Mario was a NFL and college football insider with Mile High Sports for six years.