PHOENIX — Arizonans appear more than open to the idea of being able to wager money on professional and college sports events.
But it remains to be seen whether that attitude will change depending on where all that new wagering takes place.
A new statewide survey last week by First Strategic finds 52 percent of the 703 people questioned by telephone said they are likely to support legalized sports wagering. Slightly more than 40 percent said they oppose the concept, with the balance undecided. The survey, conducted May 22, has a margin of error of 3.7 percent.
Bob Charles, who conducted the poll for the lobbying and public relations firm, said there was no significant difference in responses based on political party affiliation.
Charles also said the support level goes up to 67 percent when those on the other end of the phone that sports betting “could bring millions of dollars to the state that could be directed toward education, road improvements and other important resources.”
And when asked where they would like any revenues to go, more than half want any new dollars earmarked for education. The other responses were split almost equally among law enforcement, roads, homelessness and a catch-all category of everything else.
The survey comes less than a month after the U.S. Supreme Court voided a federal law that required most states to forbid such wagering. That, in turn, opens the door for Gov. Doug Ducey and legislators to decide whether to alter Arizona to permit that kind of gaming and, if so, where it should be allowed to take place.
Gubernatorial press aide Daniel Scarpinato said the survey supports the ideas Ducey first floated after the court ruling.
“His perspective is the perspective of the majority of Arizonans, which is this presents an opportunity for the state for additional revenues,” Scarpinato said. But he said the governor is looking at how such gaming might be handled.
“He cares about how it’s done,” Scarpinato said, saying once the state goes down that road and opens the door to sports gaming ,it would be hard to suddenly decide that maybe there are flaws in how it is implemented. “We want to make sure we do it right.”
And there’s something else. Scarpinato said his boss wants to “maintain the culture and flavor of the state.”
“I think his bias would be toward expanding this where we already have gaming in existence,” he said. “So let’s work within that framework.”
That, however, still leaves options. One would be to have sports gaming only at tribal casinos. They already have the exclusive right to operate full-scale gaming like slot machines, poker and blackjack. The state gets a share of the profits.
There are nearly 60 off-track-betting sites around the state at bars, restaurants and even a bowling alley where customers can place bets on both in-state and out-of-state races.
Charles said he plans a survey to determine if the attitudes of Arizonans toward sports wagering depend on where the sites will be located.
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