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Tonto Apache First Arizona Tribe To Open Retail Sportsbook

James Murphy
by in Gaming Industry on
  • The Tonto Apache Tribe is the first in Arizona to open a retail sportsbook at a tribal gaming property.
  • The tribe owns and operates the Mazatzal Hotel & Casino in Payson, Arizona.
  • TwinSpires is operating the sportsbook at the casino and has launched a mobile betting app available statewide.

Arizona doesn’t have the *worst* sports betting ecosystem in the United States. For players, it’s actually pretty good in terms of number of mobile betting options. The ugly part of the Arizona sports betting scene is what happens ‘under the hood’. Here’s what I said about it on August 26 after licensing decisions were announced due to a supposedly ‘objective criteria’ that the state won’t provide any transparency on:

Worst case scenario, sports bettors in Arizona will have well over a dozen online betting options in a matter of months putting them in the upper tier of that metric. They’ll also have some nice retail sports betting venues in and around Phoenix. Unfortunately, if you look ‘under the hood’ Arizona’s sports betting framework is a mishmash of dimwitted incompetence and sheer imperiousness on the part of the state’s political elite. In particular, the process of license allocation is nothing more than shameless cronyism and log-rolling with a veneer of objectivity slapped on create some ‘plausible deniability’.

Had it been set up properly, Arizona could have been one of the best jurisdictions in the US. Instead, it’s among the most shameless displays of political patronage masquerading as gaming regulation found anywhere in the country. Hopefully, this will change at some point but it’s likely going to take legal action for it to happen. You know that Governor Doug Ducey isn’t going to allow it to change any other way, even if he is preoccupied with his anti-vax, anti-mask right wing kook agenda.

Patrons line up to place bets at the new TwinSpires sportsbook at the Mazatzal Hotel & Casino

For now, sports betting is live in Arizona and for the tribal gaming bodies and professional sports organizations given the imprimatur of the governor it’s full speed ahead. The first retail sportsbooks to launch were at the venues of pro sports teams (no surprise as they’re given preferential treatment in the Arizona regulations) but today a milestone was achieved for the tribal gaming properties licensed to offer sports betting. The Tonto Apache Tribe has opened the first retail sportsbook at an Arizona tribal gaming property. The tribe owned Mazatzal Hotel & Casino now offers retail sports betting on site and mobile betting statewide.

Tonto Apache Tribe is working in partnership with Churchill Downs Inc. owned sportsbook platform TwinSpires Sportsbook to power both the retail and mobile components of their operation. The CDI sportsbook platform was previously known as ‘BetAmerica’ but the company rebranded it as ‘TwinSpires Sportsbook’ earlier this year. This was done to simplify their product line and to leverage the brand equity of the TwinSpires name which has been used for their advanced deposit horse racing product for well over a decade.

Tonto Apache Chairman Calvin Johnson had this quote in the press release announcing the launch of the retail and mobile sportsbook:

“Over the last several years, we have worked diligently to secure our sports wagering license and today marks a significant milestone for Tonto Apache. In conjunction with our world class partner, we look forward to offering a dynamic sportsbook, supporting the local community and bringing more visitors and sports fans to the Mazatzal Hotel & Casino. This opportunity will also present great opportunities and economic benefits for our people.”  

Justin Hurt, General Manager of Twin Spires, put over his company’s experience:

“The same team that’s behind the most exciting two minutes in sports is excited to launch its online sports betting product in Arizona, and partner with the Tonto Apache Tribe to bring sports fans the best product, promotions and offers.”

TwinSpires Sportsbook now offers mobile betting in Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Tennessee. It also operates retail sportsbooks in Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Mississippi and Pennsylvania.

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