Arizona Bill Proposes Sports Betting-Related Restrictions for Former Lawmakers

The legislative tweaks are being proposed in Arizona shortly before the state plays host to the Super Bowl, the first time the Big Game will be played in a legal-wagering jurisdiction.

Last Updated: Feb 3, 2023 2:55 PM ET Read Time: 2 min
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An Arizona lawmaker wants to slam shut any “revolving door” that might have opened due to the southwestern state’s legalization of retail and online sports betting sites.  

Sally Ann Gonzales, a Democratic state senator in Arizona, introduced S.B. 1617 on Thursday, a piece of legislation that proposes to restrict gambling-related opportunities for lawmakers and regulators who worked on launching legal sports betting in the southwestern state. 

The bill would prohibit current or former governors, gubernatorial staffers, lobbyists, lawyers, or legislators involved in enacting gaming legislation tied to a tribal-state compact amendment effective after Jan. 1, 2021, or who was involved in negotiating those amendments, from having a financial interest in or working in the gambling industry until April 2026.

Not sticking to the 'script'

Legal sports betting in Arizona began in September 2021, which followed the passage of legislation and the signing of amended tribal-state gaming compacts earlier that year. There are now more than 15 online sportsbooks operating in Arizona, in addition to around a dozen retail locations.

Gonzales is proposing the tweaks following reporting by the New York Times, Bloomberg News, and other outlets on the sports-betting industry and the process that led to the launch of event wagering in Arizona. Bloomberg, for example, wrote about lobbying efforts in Arizona and said the state "ultimately followed the industry script" for some regulations.

Bloomberg also reported Gonzales questioned the fast pace with which the Arizona Department of Gaming moved and its reportedly close working relationship with the industry. The state’s sports-betting law gave the department just 60 days to set the rules for event wagering, which went live just in time for the start of the National Football League’s regular season in 2021. 

A new regulator

The odds of S.B. 1617 becoming law could be long, as both the Senate and House of Representatives in Arizona are controlled by Republicans.

And, as noted by the National Conference of State Legislatures, Arizona does have rules around what public officials can do after leaving office, such as a two-year ban on profiting from the unauthorized use of information acquired through their official duties.

Still, Gonzales's legislation appears much more specific and extensive for officials that were involved in sports betting. 

S.B. 1617 also goes beyond employment-related restrictions. The bill would create an Arizona Gaming Commission to oversee fantasy sports contests, sports betting, and so-called “Class III” tribal gaming in the state until July 1, 2033, when the legislation says the regulator would close its doors. Before then, the commission would supervise the Arizona Department of Gaming and could approve or reject decisions taken by the department's director.

The bill was filed the same day that the Arizona Department of Gaming reported bettors in the state wagered almost $617 million during November, which worked out to more than $3.8 million in tax. Arizona is also set to become the first legal sports betting state to host the Super Bowl later this month.  

“It is exciting to see a second consecutive month of over $600 million wagered on sports by patrons within the state,” said Ted Vogt, director of the ADG, in a press release. “This milestone highlights Arizona’s strong sports betting market, which has already established itself as a top-ten market nationally.” 

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