Arizona sports gamblers bet a record $692 million in March

Arizonans boosted their sports betting by more than 40% in March from the prior month to $692 million, more than they have spent at any point since the pastime became legal last year.

Sports gamblers won back all but $39 million of that money, according to data released on June 6.

Department of Gaming Director Ted Vogt attributed the growth to college basketball’s March Madness tournament and other major events.

The Arizona Department of Gaming said sports books made $37.2 million in gross profits after federal tax. But that was before they gave away $18.6 million in free bets that are designed to get state residents in the habit of gambling under the new law Republican Gov. Doug Ducey signed last year.

That left $18.7 million in adjusted profits for the 17 professional sporting teams and tribes running mobile or brick-and-mortar sport books. The state collected $1.86 million in taxes, its largest monthly haul to date. The state levies an 8% tax on retail wagers and 10% on mobile app bets.

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Nearly all the bets were made online, and only two brick-and-mortar betting locations were running last month. One operation that was taking online bets in February reported no activity in March.

The free bets eating into the profit and the state’s tax haul will phase out over the next several years. They start at 20% of gross receipts in the first two years and then drop to 15% and then 10% before ending in the sixth year of legalized sports betting.

The March numbers were a big rebound after February’s take had dipped with the end of the pro football season. Arizonans had wagered $492 million that month, with sports books bringing in $24.4 million in gross profits before free bets. The $6.9 million in adjusted February profits netted the state $670,000 in tax revenue.

January receipts were $563 million, with profits of $19.6 million after free bets and state taxes of $1.9 million.

The state also reported that fantasy sports betting, which was also legalized under the new law, dipped from $1.7 million in entry fees in February to just $1.3 million last month. Two of the eight companies in that market showed no revenue last month. The remaining firms made $149,000 in profits after paying out to winners. The state charges 5% in tax and netted just under $4,500.

Fantasy sports betting launched in late August and full-on sports betting on Sept. 9.

Between the launch of sports betting and the end of 2021, gamblers wagered more than $1.7 billion and the sports books made about $60 million in profit. That led to taxes paid to the state of $6.1 million.

The newly legalized sports betting was part of a deal negotiated by the governor’s office that allowed the state’s Native American tribes to get 10 of the available licenses and professional sports teams to get the other 10. Tribes also greatly expand the type of gambling they can offer at tribal casinos.