Arizona and Connecticut Lawmakers Pave Way for Retail and Online Tribal Sports Betting

  • Lawmakers in both states have called for legal sports betting markets run by tribal operators
  • AZ Gov. Ducey completed state-tribe negotiations, aiming to amend already existing compacts 
  • Ducey hopes for a “limited and well-regulated” market, but new legislation is still needed
  • Bill 146, supported by 17 lawmakers, would give two tribes exclusive rights to CT sports betting
judge's gavel placed on US flag
Arizona and Connecticut legislators are pushing for legal sports betting markets run by the states’ tribes. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Update: Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont’s budget for the fiscal year 2022-2023 on February 10 included $50m in revenue from new gambling avenues such as digital sports betting, iGaming, and online lottery. Its achievement rests on a gambling expansion agreement between the state’s legislators and its two gaming tribes.

Following the tribal route

Arizona and Connecticut could be the next states to join the US’s burgeoning retail and online sports betting market, with lawmakers in both states looking to set up sports wagering operations run by tribal nations.

Governor Doug Ducey has completed sports betting negotiations with Arizona’s tribes, of which there are 16 casino operators. In a message to state lawmakers on Wednesday, the Arizona governor said he had negotiated a revision of existing state-tribal compacts. Ducey is looking to introduce statewide online and retail sports betting, in addition to fantasy league wagering and instant keno games.

In Connecticut, legislators have introduced a bill with the aim of legalizing sports betting in addition to online casino wagering. Senate Bill 146, supported by 17 legislators, would place control of the market in the hands of the state’s two tribes. If passed, the bill would permit the tribes to offer retail and online sports betting, also allowing the state lottery to offer online ticket sales and keno.

Arizona revises 20-year-old compacts

In his State of the State address on Monday, Gov. Ducey made clear his desire to introduce tribal sports betting operations to Arizona and his reasons for doing so.

He said: “There’s also an opportunity for a modernized gaming compact that will bring in more revenue for our tribal nations and our state budget.” Arizona’s tribes currently operate through compacts negotiated with the state. State voters approved these in 2002, but they will expire next year.

bring in more revenue for our tribal nations and our state budget”

Gov. Ducey later told lawmakers that by revising the already existing compacts to include sports betting, he is aiming for a “limited and well-regulated” market. Renegotiation of the compacts does not require another public vote.

Arizona lawmakers first attempted to introduce sports betting legislation back in 2019. The Arizona Senate Appropriations Committee approved SB 1163, which gave exclusivity of sports betting to the state’s tribes. However, legislators dropped the bill after Gov. Ducey decided on the revision of existing compacts. Other attempts to introduce sports betting since then were also unsuccesful.

Although the governor has set the wheels in motion, Arizona will still need to pass a sports betting bill to allow tribal sports betting. This would need both government support and voter approval through a referendum. Senator Sonny Borrelli and Representative Steve Pierce are most likely to spearhead this effort, having supported multiple Arizona sports betting bills in the past.

Two-tribe betting market for Connecticut

In his own State of the State address on Wednesday, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont also established his support for a legal sports betting market. He said this would help boost state revenue in response to the financial impact of COVID-19.

On Thursday, state lawmakers moved Connecticut one step closer to that goal by introducing Senate Bill 146, otherwise known as “An Act Authorizing Sports Wagering, Internet Gaming, Internet Lottery and Internet Keno.”

two tribes to offer online and retail sports betting, in addition to online casino services

The Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Tribal Nations hold exclusive rights to gaming in the state of Connecticut in exchange for 25% of slot revenue. If passed, the new legislation would allow the two tribes to offer online and retail sports betting, in addition to online casino services.

The legislation also permits the state lottery to set up online services. Other than this, the initial filing has few details. The Committee on Public Safety and Security will consider the bill in the next stage.

Legislators in Connecticut’s neighboring state of New York are also aiming to establish a legal mobile sports betting market. On Thursday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo submitted a proposal for a mobile sports betting framework. Despite initially advocating for a state-run model, Cuomo’s new plan opts for a multiple provider approach.