Arizona, Kansas Legal Sports Betting Hearings Set for This Week

Arizona, Kansas Legal Sports Betting Hearings Set for This Week article feature image
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Sarah Sachs/Arizona Diamondbacks/Getty Images. Pictured: Chase Field.

Two leading sports betting legalization candidates are scheduled to discuss bills this week.

Arizona, thanks to support from Gov. Doug Ducey, the legislature, professional sports leagues and the state’s Native American gaming tribes, is set to take a key step forward on a pair of 2021 sports betting bill.

With these major policymakers and stakeholders seemingly aligned on sports betting, gaming industry observers believe Arizona could be among the first states to pass legislation this year.

Kansas is also set to hear its sports betting bill later this week. Though there are key questions to resolve such as regulatory oversight and license eligibility, Kansas seems like another leading legalization candidate — especially as its neighbors consider similar moves.

Here’s what to expect from these two states this week, as well as where several other 2021 sports betting hopefuls stand as they continue to gear up their respective legislative sessions.

Arizona Sports Betting Scheduled House and Senate Hearings

Lawmakers in both the Arizona House and Senate will take up a pair of complementary bills this week that would allow as many as 10 online and retail sports betting licenses for the state’s Native American tribes.

The bill would also allow up to 10 additional retail sportsbook licenses for venues such as horse tracks.

The House Committee on Commerce will hear its sports betting bill at 2 p.m. local time Tuesday. The Senate’s Committee on Commerce will do the same at 2 p.m. local time Wednesday.

If passed, the state’s professional sports facilities that hold at least 10,000 spectators, as well as certain motorsports venues and golf venues, could also open retail sportsbooks.

This means potential sportsbooks at the home of the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals, NBA’s Phoenix Suns, NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes and MLB’s Arizona Diamondbacks. TPC Scottsdale, which last week hosted the PGA Tour’s annual Phoenix Open, would also be able to open an in-venue sportsbook, as would the Phoenix Raceway.

Arizona could be just the third jurisdiction to approve in-stadium sportsbooks, following Washington D.C. and Illinois. Maryland and New York have also introduced in-stadium sportsbook legislation this year.

The bill has public support from the NBA, MLB, the Cardinals, the governor’s office, BetMGM and several Arizona tribes.

Additionally, the bills set for discussion this week would legalize daily fantasy sports. Arizona is one of the last remaining states where top DFS operators such as DraftKings and FanDuel don’t operate.

The sports betting and daily fantasy discussions are part of a larger compact negotiation with the state’s federally recognized gaming tribes and their government compact, which gives them certain exclusive gaming rights in exchange for a portion of revenues.

Both the tribes and the government seem optimistic they can reach a deal that allows more gaming options at Native American casinos on top of sports betting.

First Kansas Sports Betting Hearing Set

Kansas lawmakers will take up a bill to allow as many as 12 online sports betting licenses for commercial casinos as well as expanded retail options for Native American tribes and the state’s biggest motorsports venue.

The Senate proposal would allow each of Kansas’ four commercial casinos to partner with as many as three online operators.

PointsBet already has a deal with Kansas Crossing Casino and Hotel, and Barstool Sportsbook partner Penn National already operates the Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway. The speedway would be able to open a designated sports betting area but would not be allowed to accept retail bets.

The Senate Committee on Federal and State Affairs is set to consider the bill at hearings Wednesday and Thursday, with testimony set to begin at 10:30 a.m. local time both days.

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly and the Republican-led legislature both support sports betting, but policymakers must work through key details such as tax rates and license eligibility, among other issues.

There are also concerns about regulatory authority between the state lottery, which oversees the casinos, and the Kansas Racing and Gambling Commission.

These divisions, along with a 2020 session curtailed by the COVID-19 pandemic, stalled and ultimately killed last year’s sports betting legalization efforts.

Facing rising healthcare costs and dwindling tax revenues, elected officials seem to have more motivation than ever to legalize sports betting, especially as neighboring Missouri considering legalized wagering as well.

Other State Updates

Several other states with 2021 sports betting hopes have no action scheduled as of Monday.

New York: The most-watched 2021 hopeful, New York’s mobile sports betting bills are still awaiting further action in both the Assembly and Senate.

Though they easily passed their respective chamber’s racing committees, the bills may not see movement until Gov. Andrew Cuomo specifies his position on online sportsbooks.

The governor’s initial proposal limited the number of eligible sportsbooks, a sharp contrast to the 14 advocated in existing legislation.

Missouri: Missouri has no further action scheduled for any of the six sports betting introduced so far. Lawmakers are still considering video lottery terminal legislation, which is vehemently opposed by the state’s casinos and could delay or derail 2021 sports betting hopes until a solution is reached.

Massachusetts: Massachusetts’ year-round session gives policymakers more time than most states to work through legislation but can relegate less financially pressing matters, such as legal sports betting, to the legislative backburner.

Elected officials including Republican Gov. Charlie Baker and several Democrats in the General Court have already introduced several proposals this year but none have gained much traction so far.

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