Chandler lawmaker defends free sports bets - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler lawmaker defends free sports bets

April 29th, 2021 SanTan Sun News
Chandler lawmaker defends free sports bets

By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services

Gov. Doug Ducey and the two lawmakers who ushered through a new state gaming law are defending a provision that has the state effectively financing free games to entice people to gamble.

The legislation, signed by the governor two weeks ago, allows the sports franchises that are being given the licenses to take bets on professional and college games to give away free samples. They or the outside firms they hire to run their gaming operations can provide free bets or promotional credits.

But the law also says that these operations can reduce what they report in adjusted gross receipts – the amount used to compute what they owe the state – by up to 20 percent for each of the next two years to compensate them for those free bets.

That drops to 15 percent on the third year of gaming and 10 percent in years four and five. Only after that are write-offs not allowed.

The provision was even though the legislation acknowledges that gambling can be addictive for some. The new law even has a whole section of what gaming operations have to do, from providing the phone number and web site information for where people can get help to actually allowing self-identified “problem gamblers’’ to voluntarily exclude themselves from the new type of wagering on professional, college and fantasy sports that the new law will allow.

Rep. Jeff Weninger, R-Chandler, who was the sponsor of the House version of the legislation, rejected any suggestion that providing this kind of free “taste’’ of gambling can feed into someone’s potential addiction problems.

“It’s customer acquisition that helps introduce them to the product,’’ he told Capitol Media Services.

“There’s a cost to going out there and acquiring customers,’’ Weninger continued. “And this is one of the essentially marketing tools that’s used.’’

And what of problem gamblers?

“This is no different than what tribes are allowed to do on a limited basis as well through customer acquisition to the casinos,’’ he said. “You’ll get things through the mail saying a certain amount of dollars of free slots and stuff.’’

Weninger said he has no issue with the cost of those promotions being borne by the state in the form of reduced payments because more gaming eventually will increase state dollars.

The governor, for his part, brushed aside questions about the propriety of giving credits against money owed to the state to get people to gamble.

“It was a compromise,’’ he said. “It was put together with everybody at the table.’’

The new law provides:

Fans of keno will be able to visit their local fraternal or veterans club to get their gaming fix there;

The Arizona Lottery is getting permission to run hourly online numbers games of its own, allowing people to essentially buy lottery tickets by phone;

Would-be general managers will be able not just to “draft’’ their own players and join fantasy league but also win or lose money on how well their “teams’’ performed;

There will be new ways to gamble away cash at tribal casinos, including roulette and, for those who have watched too many James Bond movies, baccarat.

Pretty much all of this is linked to the federal Office of Indian Gaming within the Bureau of Indian Affairs, approving the new gambling compacts that already have been approved by 21 of the state’s 23 gaming tribes.

All that should be in place by around the second week of August – just about when the Cardinals have their preseason opener.

But Arizonans won’t be limited to wagering on football, or even just the Cardinals. The new law means placing bets on anything sporting.

Golf or tennis more your speed? Sure.

Some of the “how’’ details have yet to be worked out.

What’s clear is that every professional sporting franchise is entitled to a license to take bets on their premises.

So, someone at Chase Field could not just watch the Diamondbacks but place some money on a soccer game going on elsewhere.

The PGA plans to have a sports book open by early 2023 at TPC, home of the Phoenix Open in Scottsdale.

In fact, wagering is even allowed on college games of all types across the country. But there’s a very specific restriction.

Gamblers will be able to place “prop bets’’ on professional games.

Short for “proposition bets,’’ this involves wagers on something other than the ultimate outcome. That could be yardage per game or the number of strike-outs by a given player.

How fast could any of this occur? As fast as the app on your phone, said Stacie Stern, government affairs director for Fan Duel.

Her firm already handles sports wagering for other states and could end up being under contract with any of the teams here to do the same for them.

“Let’s assume with the new 5G technology that you’re able to send and receive information quickly, you should be able to sit in a stadium and do in-game betting, just like you at home where you would presumably have a good internet connection,’’ Stern said.

But Arizona lawmakers have made such prop bets off limits in collegiate games.

Wagering also will be available at up to 10 remote sites across the state. The idea is they likely would co-locate in bars and restaurants where there already is off-track betting on horse races.

And Arizonans could go to the horse track and place bets there on professional sports. And this kind of wagering also could be conducted at tribal casinos.