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Q&A With Arizona Rep. Alma Hernandez on Sports Betting

Christopher Boan for Bookies.com

Christopher Boan  | 7 mins

Q&A With Arizona Rep. Alma Hernandez on Sports Betting

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It’s been more than four months since Arizona House Bill 2772 cleared the state legislature, paving the way for Arizona sports betting to begin.

The bill was co-sponsored by Arizona Reps. Alma Hernandez, Jeff Weninger, Shawnna Bolick, Cesar Chavez, David Cook, Daniel Hernandez, Jennifer Jermaine, Becky Nutt, Ben Toma, Sonny Borrelli and Thomas Shope - with Democratic and Republican members of the Arizona House of Representatives coming together to champion the cause.

Bookies.com talked with Rep. Alma Hernandez, who represents the 3rd district, which includes Tucson and other parts of northwest Pima County, about the legislation and the initial rollout of sports betting in the state.

The second-term Democrat expressed satisfaction with the bipartisan legislation, as well as the response she’s heard from members of the Pascua Yaqui tribe, which is located within her district. The Q&A has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Last week, the Arizona Department of Gaming posted its sports betting catalog, advising users what they can wager on at sportsbooks and through sports betting apps.

RELATED: Two Weeks In, Arizona Sports Betting Isn’t Slowing Down

Bookies.com: Five months after you sponsored legislation along with the other lawmakers, why did you think sports betting was important for Arizona?

Alma Hernandez: First and foremost, I represent the Pascua Yaqui reservation, which is one of the tribes here in Arizona. And they were very supportive of this. They were supporting this bill all along. So being that I represent the area, I felt that if the tribe that I represent is supporting this and thinks that would it be a good thing, not only for the tribe, but for Arizona and bringing in more revenue, I decided that I wanted to be a co-sponsor.

Rep. Jeff Weninger is a friend of mine. He has previously tried to pass bills of this nature. And I know that it was important to him, and he really wanted to get this done.

And it was done in a bipartisan way, as I'm sure you noticed. The vote was very bipartisan. And after knowing that we have the green light from the tribes in Arizona, and especially from the tribe in my district, I decided that it was something that I could support. Not only were the tribes on board, but many fans and many folks in the community who were very interested in seeing this getting done finally were too.

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Bookies: Thoughts on how HB-2772 impacts Indian tribes in the state so far?

Hernandez: It’s very new. We’re only a month in since we were able to legally do this. The Pascua Yaqui did not receive a license, but they were in support of this. And, quite honestly, it's very early, but I know there's a lot of excitement around [sports betting in Arizona] right now.

Anytime I log into social media, people are either talking about it, or I'm getting ads on social media promoting [sports betting].

I think it’s great when Arizona’s leading the way, or doing things like other states, and I believe we're the 26th state to adopt this. So, we needed to get with the program, and I'm happy to see it finally happening.

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And obviously it brings in, you know, it's estimated, I believe they said it’s $34.2 million or something, that we're expecting in general funds that we'll get out of this.

So that's obviously great for Arizona. And I know that the tribes will also benefit from this as well.

So, for me, it was a step in the right direction, doing something just to get on the same level as every other state that's doing this. And in Arizona we have great sports teams. And I know that people, again, are very excited to be able to do this finally.

Bookies: How has the sports betting rollout process gone in your opinion, versus what you expected when you helped sponsor HB-2772?

Hernandez: Of course. When this all started, I wasn't a part of the negotiation. But I came in after that. But I know that there were many people that were trying to figure out, “OK, what is this going to look like?”

So, I know many people that have downloaded the apps on their phone and are now currently betting on different games. So, it seems to me that the rollout has been great. I think it's working out.

RELATED: Q&A with Arizona State Rep. Jeff Weninger On Sports Betting

I haven't heard of any major issues with it. I know that people are still excited to sign up. So, I know that there's a lot of excitement around it. I think it's gone smooth so far. I think that people are very pleased that they're able to finally do this in Arizona.

So, I think it's going to be a positive thing for our state. And I think this is just a very exciting thing for some people and then being able to do it here legally is a great thing to see.

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Bookies: Does the strong response to legal sports betting from Arizonans give you a sense of satisfaction, as a co-sponsor of HB-2772?

Hernandez: Most definitely. I'm not an expert on sports, I used to play women's league soccer, but that's about it. But I have so many friends that are so excited to be able to do this now. And it's still the same rules that apply: you have to be 21, and there are rules around how you can do this.

So, it's not like they're doing something that's not legal, it's completely legal. And now they're able to do it. And they're excited to be able to bet on their favorite teams and do all of that.

So, I think the response from the state and really, constituents, has been really positive. I think overall, this is a great step. For us, it's a great way for us to bring in more revenue for the state.

It was done in a very bipartisan way. Yes, negotiations took a while. And many, many people were involved at the roundtable for this, but it finally got done. And I know that people are very excited to see this happen. So, I'm really looking forward to that next year when we go into the next fiscal year and seeing what that looks like for Arizona, and how people have reacted to [sports betting], and what they are doing to participate.

Bookies: What should Arizonans know about the work that went on behind the scenes in getting legal sports betting legislation off the ground in Arizona?

Hernandez: I wasn't a part of all these committee hearings and the meetings that they had to be able to work out negotiations with the tribal communities, and with the governor's office, but I do know, it was not easy.

It took a lot of a lot of working, a lot of compromising and being in a place where you had everyone in the room that was going to be impacted by this and figuring out the best solutions.

And those solutions were figured out. And we finally were able to come up with a compromise. And really got it across the finish line with broad support on both sides.

So, I was really excited about it. I know that my colleague [Rep. Jeff Weninger] worked hard for this. He was passionate about it. He's been wanting to do this for years. And finally getting it done, I know was not an easy thing. But it was done collaboratively with the support of the of the tribal nations, which is obviously very important when we're talking about making any changes to the tribal compact.

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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.