‘Peanuts, popcorn, the over/under?’ Arizona offering a new sports betting partnership By Howard Stutz, Executive Editor, CDC Gaming Reports February 6, 2021 at 5:00 am Many professional teams located in states where sports wagering is legal have taken on “official sports betting partners,” which primarily provide sportsbook operators signage inside stadiums or arenas and other marketing opportunities. Arizona lawmakers are considering allowing teams to take that designation one step further. Legislation introduced in Phoenix last week would permit the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals, the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes, the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, and Major League Baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks to have ownership in sports betting operations at their venues. The NHL’s Arizona Coyotes, owned by Sahara owner Alex Meruelo, could soon have a stake in legal sports betting. It’s not as if the teams will be accepting action on the games. Sports betting consultant Sara Slane said the concept is a new way for sports betting companies to gain market access in a state. “It’s more of a reward for the teams,” Slane said. “The teams will never be touching a bet.” She suggested the teams would earn a fee for the retail sports betting space at the arenas, a second location within a quarter-mile of the stadium, and an online sports betting site. Under the legislation, 10 licenses would be authorized by the state and would include Phoenix’s WNBA and Major League Soccer franchises, the PGA Tour event in Scottsdale, and the Phoenix Raceway. When Super Bowl LV kicks off Sunday in Tampa, sports betting operators in 20 states and Washington, D.C., will be taking wagers on the game. Another five states have legalized sports betting and are planning to launch operations this year. Sports betting consultant Sara Slane Half of the U.S. has legalized sports betting in less than three years since the May 2018 Supreme Court ruling fueled the rapid expansion. Another six states, including Arizona, are looking at legalizing the activity. Slane, who was actively involved in sports betting legalization leading up to the Supreme Court decision, said representatives and governors are finding new ways to bring the activity to their constituents while providing potential tax dollars to state coffers heavily depleted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Arizona is also home to a vibrant Indian casino market, in which 24 tribal gaming operations produced more than $2 billion in revenue in the 2020 fiscal year. Under the Arizona legislation, the tribes would receive 10 sports betting licenses, along with online gaming and fantasy sports wagering. Gov. Doug Ducey wants to modernize the tribal gaming compacts and has been looking at ways the tribes can boost revenues. But the state also wants to allow gaming away from the Indian casinos. With Arizona seeking skin in the sports betting game, Nevada’s legacy sports wagering business could have new competition. Sports betting’s expansion across the U.S. was not a factor in Nevada sportsbooks experiencing their first year-over-year wagering decline in more than a decade during 2020. That was pandemic-related. The cancellation of the lucrative March Madness college basketball playoffs and Final Four, reduced seasons for professional baseball, basketball, and hockey, and fewer college football games and bowl games caused a $1 billion decline in Nevada’s total sports wagers. Slane said the fear that gaming in other states hurts Las Vegas has long grown stale. William Hill US CEO Joe Asher agreed. His company has more than a dozen sportsbooks on the Strip, which includes the sports betting facilities inside casinos operated by Caesars Entertainment. “I’ve never viewed any market as a major competitive threat to Las Vegas,” Asher said. One of William Hill’s locations on the Strip is at the Sahara, which is owned by Alex Meruelo, who also happens to own the Arizona Coyotes. Caesars, which already owns 20% of William Hill US, operates Harrah’s Ak Chin resort just south of Phoenix. With the potential of 20 sports betting licenses in Arizona, William Hill, which already has sports betting operations across 14 states, will be in the mix. Sports betting locations at stadiums is not a new concept. In Washington, D.C., William Hill has betting windows at the Capital One Arena and will have a full-scale sportsbook by the spring. BetMGM is also opening a sportsbook at Nationals Park this year. Last September, DraftKings and the Chicago Cubs announced plans to pursue a retail sportsbook at venerable Wrigley Field. Arizona is just adding a new wrinkle. Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.