Christopher Boan for Bookies.com

By Christopher Boan | | 5 mins

Having Sports Betting Ahead Of California Is Huge For Arizona

Having Sports Betting Ahead Of California Is Huge For Arizona
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The launch of Arizona sports betting carried extra resonance, given the impact it could have on the proverbial sleeping giant one state over.

The giant in this case is California and its population of 39.5 million, more than seven times the size of Arizona, which boasts 7.3 million residents, comparatively.

Arizona sportsbooks and sports betting apps went live on Sept. 9, just in time for the first day of NFL betting. That should be at least a year ahead of any such offerings in the Golden State, which will put the topic to voters in a referendum in November 2022.

GeoComply, a geolocation security company, issued a report this week showing Arizona had the fourth-most transactions (6.1 million) of any state over the first NFL weekend.

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Hitting The Sports Betting Jackpot

The ability to launch on Sept. 9, well ahead of California, will reap big rewards for operators and state funds alike, said Daniel McIntosh, who is a senior lecturer at Arizona State University.

McIntosh said he believes that Arizona’s ability to draw in tax dollars from state residents, in addition to those visiting from California, is an advantage over competing locales with sports betting in place, such as Las Vegas.

“It all kind of boils down to whether somewhere like Scottsdale or Paradise Valley becomes a more viable alternative to vacation at than Las Vegas,” McIntosh told Bookies.com. “And so the answer is going to be yes. The difficult problem is trying to estimate things like how many people will [legalized sports betting] bring in?

“Will people be brought in now that they have the opportunity to gamble legally? The big thing here is tourism. And there’s an already strong relationship that’s existed between Arizona and California, so California’s always been a critical part of Arizona’s economy.”

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New Opportunities for Tribes

Valerie Spicer, who is a founding partner of Trilogy Group Consulting Agency, which has more than 50 years of experience helping tribal governments, said she believes the new compact can be a game-changer for tribes in the state.

Spicer said she hopes that the 2021 compact, which tribes spent upwards of five years working on, will create new opportunities for tribes and their partners.

“I’m hopeful that it works out well for everyone who’s seeking an opportunity, and that it’s a balanced approach across the board for the tribes and elsewhere,” Spicer told Bookies.com. “It’ll be interesting to see how it all plays out.”


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Spicer’s background as the former executive director of the Arizona Indian Gaming Association and CEO of Gaming Strategies Group, in addition to her work with tribes in Southern California, leads her to say that the Golden State will avoid cutting corners, whenever it does legalize sports betting.

“I think every state, and certainly the tribal governments within that state, all have their own particular set of circumstances moving forward,” Spicer said. “California certainly has their own. The tribes there are working really hard to drive their narrative and how they want sports betting to work within their state.

“There’s no rush, right? They’re not in a hurry. So they’re going to make sure that when they do it, they do it the way they want it to be done.”

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Arizona Tourism And Sports Betting

Dennis Hoffman, professor of economics at Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business, shared McIntosh's opinion regarding the state’s ability to hit the market before California.

Hoffman said it’s a plus that Arizona can use its existing tourism assets to complement sports betting, as it will draw in more people from states like California that don’t have legalized betting options.

It’s that exclusivity that leads Hoffman to project that legalized sports betting in Arizona will generate upwards of $200 million in business activity and more than $30 million in tax revenue in the years ahead.

“The characteristics of the state, such as being pro-business, in combination with our proximity to Las Vegas, I think illustrates an opportunity [for Arizona],” Hoffman said. “… And when you talk with people, the interesting thing is that Arizona is pretty much part of every major sports league, which I think is important, especially for Phoenix.

“I think it kind of puts us in a strategic advantage there. I think we also are a big destination state. We’re not Vegas, in terms of people going to conventions and things like that, but we host big events, like the Phoenix Open and Cactus League baseball.”

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Keep an Eye on Partnerships

For Spicer, the name of the game is seeing which partnerships between tribes and gaming operators and sports teams flourish in the months ahead.

She said legalized sports betting can be a new era for tribes and sports teams alike, and hopes the benefits will be realized by all involved.

“Sports leagues [in Arizona] have, for the most part, had long relationships with a number of tribes,” Spicer said. “So it’ll be interesting to see when it gets up and operational, how it works for everybody, and I hope it works well.”

About the Author

Christopher Boan for Bookies.com
Christopher Boan
Christopher Boan has covered sports and sports betting in Arizona for more than seven years, with stops at ArizonaSports.com, Tucson Weekly and Green Valley News.