Arizona Senate Passes Bill That Would Allow Tribal-Owned Sports Betting Kiosks in Commercial Venues

Arizona Senator Sonny Borrelli (R-Havasu City) is tired of losing money to Nevada. A sports betting bill that passed 6-3 in the state senate Tuesday night may change that. Borrelli’s bill, SB 1163, would legalize sports betting in Arizona — giving exclusivity to the state’s Tribes. The sports betting bill differs from most; it would involve Tribal-owned kiosks stationed in bars and other private venues across the state.

Striking Tribal-commercial partnerships, Tribes could either rent the kiosk footprint or enter a revenue- or profit-sharing agreement with the owner of the venue. The bill does not contain a mobile component.

As Borelli told SportsHandle.com: “I want to take advantage of the existing technology with the kiosk. I want to pick up that kiosk, take it out of the casino and put it in a liquor-licensed bar, a beer-and-wine bar or private clubs, like the Elks or VFW.”

An Arizona state revenue stream would result from an imposed 6.75 percent tax on revenue on all bets placed at kiosks located on non-Tribal lands. According to existing Tribal compacts, gaming revenue is taxed on a sliding scale from 1-8 percent. Across Arizona, 16 Tribes operate 24 casinos.

According to Cronkite News’ assessment of the hearing on Tuesday, many Arizona Tribes still oppose the bill. Though a Navajo Nation representative in attendance voiced support for it.

“The Navajo Nation economy is facing a crisis. Thousands of Navajo jobs are threatened as the local mines and power plants close,” said Otto Tso, Council Delegate of the Navajo Nation. “Indirectly it affects about 1,600 jobs of the Navajo due to these closures, and this bill is basically about revenue, jobs and how nations can sustain themselves,” reported Cronkite News.

Borrelli stressed that SB 1163 would merely create opportunity for Tribes to negotiate and determine how to move forward with sports betting. But the bill includes a key prohibition of sports betting in Maricopa and Pinal counties.

Of course, under the bill, Tribes would not be bound by reservation borders. Still, it’s worth noting that Pinal County is home to Apache Sky Casino and Harrah’s Ak-Chin. Maricopa County includes Talking Stick Resort, Desert Diamond Casino West Valley, Wild Horse Pass Casino, Casino Arizona, Fort McDowell Casino, Lone Butte Casino and Vee Quiva Casino.

Interestingly, SB 1163 is actually a “strike everything” amendment (“striker”) to a prior bill against prostitution. All prior text concerning prostitution was entirely removed, and replaced with sports betting regulations. That’s because Borrelli’s former sports betting bill SB 1158 failed to pass the Arizona Senate Commerce and Public Safety Committee — so Borrelli moved on to Plan B, a strike-everything amendment to SB 1163.

Of course, a bill is only step one. If it passes, Tribes would be faced with the process of securing agreeable commercial deals on machine rentals and revenue- or profit-sharing models with commercial venues.

The new verbage to SB 1163 states:

“Each federally recognized Indian tribe that has entered into a tribal-state gaming compact pursuant to chapter 6 of this title may operate sports betting as defined in subsection B of this section. No other person or entity may operate sports betting, provided, that a wholly owned entity of an Indian tribe shall be considered the same as an Indian tribe and enjoy the same rights under this chapter.

An Indian tribe that is authorized to operate sports betting pursuant to this section may operate sports betting through kiosks or similar machines that are located at one or more premises that have a bar license, beer and wine bar license or a private club license that is issued pursuant to title 4. This subsection does not allow an Indian tribe to operate more gaming devices than otherwise allocated under either section 25 5-601.2 or any successor tribal-state gaming compact, whichever is then currently applicable to the tribe.”

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