Push for horse track gambling could doom proposal to bring sports betting to Arizona

By Ryan Randazzo | Arizona Republic

A measure to allow sports betting in Arizona has hit a snag in the Senate, where a lawmaker has tied the bill to expanded gambling at horse tracks. That move could doom its fate.

However, Arizonans could still see sports betting if a separate bill in the House advances.

Sports betting has wide support among the public as well as from Republicans and Democrats at the Arizona Legislature, and from the governor.

In years past, any gambling expansion outside Native American reservations has faced opposition from the state’s tribes. Gov. Doug Ducey has won support from tribes for sports betting this year by agreeing to allow tribes to expand their casinos and gambling offerings in exchange for their support of identical sports betting bills introduced in both chambers of the Legislature. 

But despite widespread support, Senate Bill 1797 has encountered a roadblock. It was held in the Senate Appropriations Committee, chaired by Sen. David Gowan, R-Sierra Vista. Gowan then took the bill allowing sports betting, and added it to a bill that allows expanded gambling at horse tracks, which tribes oppose.

Senate Bill 1794 would allow “historic horse racing,” where gamblers wager on previously run horse races on slot-machine like terminals. The races don’t need to be rerun since they already took place. That makes the pace of betting faster and the house takes a cut of the overall betting pool.

Note: Rose Law Group represents the PGA.

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