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Details emerge on gambling expansion

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) throws against the Los Angeles Rams during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) throws against the Los Angeles Rams during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

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 the terms of a plan by Gov. Doug Ducey. And you’d even be able to do that from your phone.

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

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 multi-pronged proposal which would vastly expand what kind of legal wagering can occur here, both on and off-reservation.

But this is about more than providing easier access for Arizonans for a way to wager.

Doug Ducey

Doug Ducey

Most notably, the plan — and the deal Ducey has negotiated with tribes who 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 even 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.

It’s a truly complex deal.

On one hand are the tribes.

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

Sen. T.J. Shope, R-Coolidge, who is sponsoring one of the versions of the plan, told Capitol Media Services that more casinos and more games, like craps, might keep people in Arizona with more options to gamble closer to home.

“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 that there is an audience for local expanded gaming. Consider, Shope said, people who come to town 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.

That 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.

But the really big bucks — no one from the governor’s office is giving out figures — could come from the state’s share of newly authorized off-reservation gaming if the legislature approves.

T.J. Shope

T.J. Shope

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

Take fantasy league wagering.

“Fantasy sports has been played for years,” Shope said.

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

The bigger change involves 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. That federal law 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 that 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.

With those compacts expiring, that opened the door for Ducey to renegotiate.

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

But for those seeking a bit more excitement, the law 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. More to the point, they focus on the performance of an individual player.

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

What Ducey is proposing involves 20 licenses, with half reserved for the tribes. The other half will 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, however, be the option to actually 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,” Shope explained. “But there is an appetite, I believe, to engage in this out there.”

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. But 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 where you can now buy a Lottery ticket. The plan gives 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 anymore.”

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

In some ways, the odd-man out are the state’s horse tracks. The deal Ducey negotiated with the tribes precludes them from operating “racinos,” essentially allowing some forms of casino gaming.

But Shope said they had their chance.

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

“It was resoundingly defeated,” Shope said.

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