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Why Did Arizona Deny PointsBet & Tribe Sports Betting License?

Christopher Boan for Bookies.com

Christopher Boan  | 5 mins

Why Did Arizona Deny PointsBet & Tribe Sports Betting License?

Northern Arizona’s Cliff Castle Casino was dealt a roller coaster of a ride on its path toward trying to get licensed for sports betting in Arizona.

The Camp Verde gaming facility said in a news release that it was originally granted an event wagering operator license on Aug. 23 by the Arizona Department of Gaming, only to have the department rescind the license two days later.

The casino’s application planned on it partnering with PointsBet to open a retail sportsbook at the casino, which is am economic organization of the Yavapai-Apache Nation.

A spokesperson from PointsBet declined comment about the licensing situation.

“On August 25, the Arizona Department of Gaming contacted Cliff Castle Casino stating that its issuance of the license was an ‘administrative error’,” the casino’s statement reads. “Perplexed on how such an error could occur, Cliff Castle Casino could only assume that the 'error' was that the Department had decided that it released the license too early as the Department had until Friday, August 27, to notify applicants.”

The casino was notified by the department on Aug. 27 that its license had been denied, with no explanation, casino General Manager Aaron Moss said in the release. The ADG approved 18 licenses on Aug. 27.

“During the licensing process, we had expectations that the Arizona Department of Gaming would be transparent in how the licenses were awarded. The fact that we were issued a license and then told that we did not get a license with no explanation has raised more questions than answers about the license allocation process,” Moss said.

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The ADG Response

The ADG sent a statement Wedneday about the Cliff Castle denial:

On Monday, August 23, 2021, an administrative error led to the false issuance of a Tribal Event Wagering Operator License to Cliff Castle Casino Hotel entirely outside of the license allocation process used to distribute the available licenses.

Upon learning of this error, the Department immediately retracted the falsely issued license and notified the applicant accordingly.

Representatives from the Department spoke with representatives for Cliff Castle Casino Hotel again on Wednesday, August 25, 2021 to assure Cliff Castle that:

  • The employee involved in the false issuance due to administrative error was not involved in the allocation process and had no knowledge of any internal decisions on that matter;
  • No allocation decisions had yet been reached by the independent internal committee;
  • The Department would meet the allocation deadline of August 27, 2021 for all Event Wagering Operator Licenses.

The Department sent two additional written communications following up on these points to Cliff Castle representatives on Thursday, August 26, 2021.

The Department has worked throughout the process to openly communicate with stakeholders and preserve the impartiality and integrity of this process, while complying with the confidentiality provisions mandated by A.R.S. § 5-1305(H) and will continue to do so.

A department spokesman also said there is nothing in the state statute/rule preventing PointsBet from partnering with another licensee.

Will Tribe Challenge the Ruling?

The tribe said getting approval for sportsbook operations would have been a key step in making up revenue that the tribe lost out on with the expansion of gaming in larger metropolitan areas, like Phoenix and Tucson.

The tribe did not say whether it plans on challenging the ruling in court, though lawsuits have been filed by the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe and Turf Paradise Racing against the department.

Both lawsuits will be heard in Maricopa County Superior Court in downtown Phoenix on Friday afternoon.

Arizona is planning to launch the sports betting market on Sept. 9 for NFL betting. The first game is that night between the Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the defending Super Bowl champions.

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Early AZ Registration Ongoing

Some of the sportsbook operators that were approved Friday began offering promotions and early signup bonuses when the early registration window opened on Saturday. Here are the sports betting site bonuses that are available:

BetMGM is giving new Arizona bettors receive $200 in free bets if they register early.

Caesars is offering a $100 free bet along with a risk-free wager promotion of up to $5,000. Both offers can be used by new Arizona bettors.

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DraftKings has come out with an early registration bonus of $150 in free bets that can be used with its 20% first deposit match up to $1,000.

FanDuel offers a $100 credit for registering early in Arizona, and a risk-free bet of up to $1,000 as a welcoming offer. They can be used simultaneously.

WynnBET will be offering a $200 free bet along with a risk-free wager of up to $1,000 for anyone in Arizona who registers early with them.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include the ADG's response for the denial.

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.