- Penn National Gaming’s interactive subsidiary Penn Interactive has announced an Arizona market access partnership with NASCAR.
- As part of the agreement, Penn National’s Barstool Sportsbook will become the exclusive sportsbook of Phoenix Raceway.
- Sports betting in Arizona is set to launch on September 9.
Sports betting is set to launch in Arizona on September 9 and while it should be fairly good for players in the state with up to 20 mobile operators the regulatory framework is a strange one–even by the dubious standard set by the US gaming industry. The end result should make Arizona far from the worst jurisdiction in the country (until further notice Tennessee has that lock, stock and barrel) but the allocation of sports betting licenses is a head scratcher.
Arizona didn’t even bother *trying* to make the process by which sports betting licenses will be allocated look fair. Like many states, Arizona is gifting sports betting to the tribal gaming industry. Unlike many states, they’re setting up in a way to almost guarantee backroom shenanigans if not out and out corruption. There will be a total of twenty licenses, half of which will be allocated to the tribal gaming operators. There’s only one problem–there are 24 tribes in Arizona meaning that the state will pick and choose the economic beneficiaries of a new industry that should benefit them all. Actually, it *should* benefit all Arizonans via a open and competitive marketplace but we know that’s not going to happen.
The other ten licenses will go to another wealthy, powerful and politically connected special interest–professional sports franchises and venues. It’s amazing how quickly the professional sports industry in the US has gone to treating sports betting as a threat to general decency all the way to this point where teams will literally be in the bookmaking business. It’s such a transparent bequeath of a financial windfall to those who have invested time and money to curry political favor by the Arizona legislature and Governor Doug Ducey that it’s hard to be mad about due to the sheer gall it took for them to foist this on the citizens of their state. They even found a way to placate the state lottery by cutting them in with a new Keno game. In addition, there will be “10 limited event wagering licenses available, which are reserved for racetrack enclosures or additional wagering facilities (OTBs).” I dug around the Arizona Department of Gaming website and through the regulatory documents but there doesn’t appear to be any definition of what ‘limited event wagering’ is relative to ‘event wagering’. My guess is that it’ll allow racetracks and/or OTB facilities to operate retail sportsbooks on property but not online betting.
Once you get past the ‘screw everyone but our political cronies’ criteria for license distribution, the future of sports betting in Arizona doesn’t look too bad. You’ll get many of the ‘usual suspects’ setting up shop in the state after making ‘market access deals’ with Arizona’s tribal and/or pro sports interests. There will be 20 retail sportsbooks in the state along with mobile betting. The tribal gaming operators that *aren’t* selected for sports betting licensing are still getting thrown a bone of expanded casino gaming with the introduction of baccarat, craps and roulette. The net result should be more gaming freedom for Arizona residents even if behind the scenes it is facilitated by a downright shameless process of political patronage.
The companies that have already announced plans to set up shop partnering with a tribal gaming interest in Arizona are PointsBet (Yavapai-Apache Nation), Caesars/William Hill (Ak-Chin Indian Community), Unibet parent company Kindred Group (Quechan Indian Tribe) and WynnBET (San Carlos Apache Tribe). Companies that are partnering with professional sports operations are Bally’s Corporation (WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury), DraftKings (PGA Tour), FanDuel (NBA’s Phoenix Suns) and Caesars once again, this time in partnership with the MLB Arizona Diamondbacks. Since Caesars already operates Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino and have made a deal with the D-Backs maybe they’re planning to operate under their name as well as the William Hill brand in the state? So far no word about sportbook partnership plans from the NFL Arizona Cardinals or the NHL Arizona Coyotes. The Coyotes and Cardinals already have sponsorship deals with the Gila River Hotels & Casinos so that might play into their plans. Not to mention the fact that the Coyotes’ home arena is called the ‘Gila River Arena’ thanks to a naming rights deal with the tribal gaming company.
Earlier today, another well known sportsbook brand secured market access in Arizona. Penn National Gaming will bring their Barstool Sportsbook brand to the state in partnership with NASCAR. Barstool Sportsbook will become the ‘exclusive sportsbook’ of NASCAR owned Phoenix Raceway though as of now it isn’t clear if they’re planning to open a retail facility at the track. Penn National was NASCAR’s first authorized gaming operator and the company is a race title sponsor of the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway.
Here’s the press release quotes, first from the NASCAR representatives starting with Phoenix Raceway President Julie Giese:
“Phoenix Raceway is a state-of-the-art entertainment destination that prides itself on delivering a best-in-class fan experience. Our partnership with Penn National Gaming and Barstool Sportsbook takes this to another level. It will help us continue our mission of redefining the way we engage fans and connect with new audiences.”
“As our first authorized gaming operator, Penn National has been invested in engaging NASCAR fans since we began building our position in the sports betting space. We couldn’t be more excited to provide our partners with access to our passionate fan base in the greater Phoenix market.”
On the Penn National side here’s Jon Kaplowitz, Senior Vice President of Penn Interactive:
“Barstool Sportsbook has proven itself to be a market leader in the jurisdictions where it has launched due to a combination of unique offers and a leading mobile experience. This new partnership will allow us to engage a passionate sports fan base in Arizona while having access to a best-in-class sports entertainment facility in Phoenix Raceway.”
All of the quotes are pretty vague about the potential for a Barstool Sportsbook retail operation at the track. Here’s what the press release said about the ‘exclusive sportsbook’ relationship:
As the exclusive sportsbook of Phoenix Raceway, Barstool Sportsbook is expected to take an active role in promoting NASCAR odds across its properties and sports betting app. Barstool Sportsbook will feature unique promotions and odds boosts for fans betting in Arizona and will be prominently featured with at-track signage and via NASCAR’s social and digital channels.
So that’s eight mobile sports betting providers and counting (I’m only counting Caesars/William Hill once). The 20 sports betting licensees will be ‘officially announced’ by the Arizona Department of Gaming of August 16. If you want to dig through the ADG website be my guest: