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Here are all the details of Arizona gov's plan to vastly expand legal gambling
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Here are all the details of Arizona gov's plan to vastly expand legal gambling

Republican Gov. Doug Ducey is asking GOP-controlled Legislature to OK much more legal gaming, off and on reservations

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A board at Harrah’s casino in Atlantic City, N.J., shows the odds for the NFL’s opening games in this 2018 file photo. Arizona’s governor wants to allow betting on professional and collegiate sports in this state, too.

PHOENIX — OK. So you think Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray will rush for at least 75 yards in an upcoming game.

Wanna bet on it?

That would become legal in Arizona under a plan by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, if the GOP-controlled Legislature approves. And you’d even be able bet from your phone.

Also look for legalized wagering on “fantasy” leagues. If keno is your thing, that, too, would be available — but not everywhere.

In a dramatic concession to South Africa’s Black majority, President F.W. de Klerk lifted a ban on the African National Congress and promised to free Nelson Mandela, and more events that happened on this day in history.

And there could be more tribal casinos with more kinds of games.

It’s all in the details obtained Monday by Capitol Media Services about the governor’s multi-pronged proposal, which would vastly expand the kinds of legal wagering that could occur, both on and off reservations.

Most notably, the plan — and the deal Ducey has negotiated with tribes, which currently have the exclusive right to most forms of gaming in Arizona — would generate new dollars for the state while allowing the governor to keep his promise of not raising taxes.

In fact, depending on the revenues, they could help Ducey finally get closer to his multi-year promise of moving the state’s income tax rate as close to zero as possible.

Fewer trips to Las Vegas?

It’s a complex deal.

On one hand are the tribes.

Under the terms of a 2002 initiative they crafted and got voters to approve, tribes have been able to operate casinos in exchange for giving the state a share of the profits. That generated $31.7 million for the state in the most recent quarter.

State Sen. T.J. Shope, R-Coolidge, who is sponsoring one of the versions of the plan, said that more casinos and more games, like craps, might keep people in Arizona to gamble instead of traveling to Nevada.

“Obviously, the allure of Vegas is always going to be there,” Shope said. “I, myself, go a handful of times a year.”

But he also figures there is an audience for local expanded gaming. Consider, Shope said, people who come to Arizona for spring training or the Phoenix Open.

“For that person that is interested in doing something in the afternoon and evening when the ballgame’s over, they’re going to be able to go ahead and have that option,” he said.

The same revenue-sharing formula by the tribes would remain in place for the next 20 years. But more casinos and more games would presumably generate more dollars.

The really big bucks — no one from the Governor’s Office is giving out figures — could come from the state’s share of off-reservation gaming, if the Legislature authorizes it.

State would get share of fantasy league revenues

Shope acknowledged this would result in a sharp increase in legal types of gambling in Arizona. But he said that’s, at least in part, an acknowledgment of reality.

Take fantasy league wagering. “Fantasy sports has been played for years,” Shope noted.

In essence, players “draft” real players for a fake team they have created. Then their team “plays” another fake team, with the winner decided based on a point system.

The Arizona proposal would involve having the state license the major players like DraftKings and, presumably, get a share of the wagering.

And it’s not just football and baseball. Those online sites permit wagering on everything from basketball and hockey to golf, soccer and NASCAR racing.

Big change: betting on college, professional games

The bigger change would involve being able to bet on collegiate and professional games.

The door to that was opened in 2018 when the U.S. Supreme Court voided the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, a federal law that made it illegal for states to legalize sports wagering.

Ducey said in 2019 he was interested in having Arizona move into that territory.

But that was not a legal option here as a result of the 2002 initiative, which not only gave tribes the right to operate casinos for the next 20 years, but also specifically barred the state from implementing any form of gambling that did not exist at the time.

As those compacts with tribes are now beginning to expire, the door opened for Ducey to renegotiate.

For college sports, the only permissible form would be betting on the outcome of a game.

But the plan also would allow “prop bets” on professional games.

Short for “proposition bets,” these encompass pretty much anything other than the ultimate result or point spread. They focus on the performance of an individual player.

Where the betting could take place

The “where” of all that is a bit more complex.

Ducey’s proposal involves 20 licenses, with half reserved for the tribes. The other half would be divided up among Arizona sports teams or franchises.

So the Cardinals would be able to get one, as would the Diamondbacks, the Suns, the Coyotes, NASCAR and the Professional Golf Association. And they, in turn, would contract with secondary locations to serve as off-track betting parlors.

There would also be the option to sit at home — or anywhere — and bet by phone. That pleases Shope.

“The ease of being able to do it by phone is something that is definitely a desire from I think the average person that does this sort of stuff,” he said.

Shope described himself as “a big sporting nut.”

“Not everybody is going to do something like that,” he said. “But there is an appetite, I believe, to engage in this out there.”

Keno would be exclusive to fraternal organizations

For those interested in something a bit different, the new deal negotiated by Ducey and now awaiting legislative approval also includes keno.

It’s kind of a lottery game, with bettors choosing numbers, but conducted far more frequently, potentially multiple times per hour. Until now, like sports wagering, the 2002 tribal compacts forbid the state from offering it.

But don’t look to be able to make those bets from anywhere, or even from where you can now buy a lottery ticket. The plan would give that exclusive right to “fraternal organizations” like the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Elks Club and other similar sites.

Shope said the restriction is justified. He said these organizations have been “suffering across the country” as younger people — he is 35 — aren’t “into doing that kind of thing any more.”

“That’s why you see memberships in all these groups dwindling,” he said. Shope said he’s willing to help out — and give them the exclusive right to make money off of keno —because “they do a lot of good for the community.”

It would still be the Arizona Lottery ultimately running the games and spitting out the winning numbers. And, as with casino wagering, fantasy leagues and sports betting, the state would get a share of everything wagered.

Horse tracks don’t get casino-style gaming options

In some ways, the odd man out are the state’s horse tracks. The deal Ducey negotiated with the tribes precludes the tracks from operating “racinos,” or casino-style gaming such as slot machines.

But Shope said they had their chance.

He pointed out the tracks put their own initiative on the 2002 ballot, one that would have given both them and the tribes the chance to operate casino games.

“It was resoundingly defeated,” Shope said.


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