Feds OK new Arizona tribal casino and sports betting deal

Gambling on sporting events and online fantasy sports betting became legal in Arizona on Monday, along with a host of new gambling options at tribal casinos, after the U.S. Department of the Interior approved an updated tribal gaming compact with the state.

The approval puts into effect emergency legislation Gov. Doug Ducey signed in April that was a counterpart to the new tribal gambling agreement. The deal the Republican governor signed with the tribes allows them to expand their casino gambling offerings and offer sports and fantasy betting.

Outside of the reservation casinos, major professional sports groups will be able to offer wagering on pro sports like the NFL, and NBA. And online fantasy sports operations like DraftKings can piggyback on the licenses.

The approval by the Interior Department's Bureau of Indian Affairs was the last cog needed for the gambling options to be fully legal in the state. Pro teams will need to get state-issued licenses and set up operations. Backers of the legislation hope that is possible by the start of the NFL season this fall.

The Arizona Department of Gaming is now tasked with developing and writing the rules and regulations, as well as issuing licenses to pro teams and operators. Rep. Jeff Weninger, the Chandler lawmaker who introduced the bill, estimates that the state could bring more than $100 million a year in new revenue.

"You've got to remember, it’s not just sports betting, it’s fantasy sports, it’s Keno, it’s more revenue because the casinos are having more people there," Weninger said. "They’re going to have craps now, they’re going to have Baccarat now."

Weninger said people could start betting by the beginning of September.

It could also translate into more help for Arizona veterans. The new law allows Arizona's VFW posts to operate Keno and fantasy sports kiosks, giving them a new fundraising stream.

"It would let us expand on out and do more homeless program, said Tom Judd with the Veterans of Foreign Wars. "Once a year we do Christmas boxes for veterans and the community – we do 60-70 food boxes, enough food to last them a week. We could do that more than once a year."

The tribes fiercely protected their exclusive right to most gambling in Arizona under the gaming compact approved by the state’s voters in 2002 and will continue to get that protection under the new deal.

In addition to the new sports and online betting, the tribes can now greatly expand their exclusive gambling offerings, adding games such as Baccarat and craps and increasing the number of slot machines while maintaining existing offerings of blackjack and poker.

Ducey hailed the milestone, which came after five years of negotiations with tribes.

"Gaming creates thousands of jobs for Arizonans, it generates tax revenue that benefits key areas of our communities, and it draws visitors to our state," Ducey said in a statement.

Continuing Coverage:

Tune in to FOX 10 Phoenix for the latest news:

Sign up for FOX 10 email alerts, newsletters

Get breaking news alerts in the FOX 10 News app. It is FREE! Download for Apple iOS or Android.