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Arizona governor signs bill legalizing sports betting

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill Thursday that allows a major expansion of gambling, providing a potential revenue windfall for the state and for tribes that will be allowed to boost their gambling offerings.

The measure approved by the Legislature adds additional types of table games at tribal casinos and for the first time allows sports betting operators under licenses issued to tribes and pro sports teams. It also allows gambling on fantasy sports and new Keno games at horse race tracks and fraternal organizations.

The passage of the legislation is tied to the updated gaming compact Ducey struck with tribes, which was kept secret until compact documents were made public Thursday morning.

The updated compact will allow as many as four new casinos in the metro Phoenix area, although only two are likely to be built anytime soon, according to the compact documents. Altogether, as many as 11 new casinos are allowed statewide but only four in the first 10 years.

They will be on Tohono O’Odham Nation land in the far western reaches of the metro area and on Gila River Indian Community holdings in the southeastern part of the vast metropolis, the documents said.

“There’s no question that Arizona has grown and changed significantly since the last major compact update in 2003,” Ducey said. “It’s important that we account for these changes in our policies and our compacts.”

There are currently seven tribal casinos in metro Phoenix and 24 across the state. At least one new casino could be built in metro Tucson as well.

Tribes will also be given rights to operate nearly 6,300 new slot machines, on top of more than 24,000 already allowed, plus a boost every two years after the new deals are formally approved by the federal government, the documents said.

That provides plenty of growing room for tribal casinos, which are only using about 13,500 machines now, according to the state Department of Gaming.

The governor invited lawmakers and tribal leaders to attend the signing at the Heard Museum in central Phoenix. Ducey and tribal officials described years of sometimes contentious negotiations to reach an agreement.

“We argued before we agreed. And we fought before we found our middle ground,” said Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis of the Gila River Indian Community. “But here we are today, celebrating the most unique unicorn in political life: A genuine win for us all.”

The biggest part of the plan will allow pro sports teams like the Arizona Coyotes, Arizona Diamondbacks and Arizona Cardinals to run sports betting operations at their respective venues, at a retail location within a quarter mile and online, the documents said. There would be 10 licenses awarded to sports, which could include professional golf and even NASCAR.

Tribes would also get 10 licenses and could run sports books at two dozen tribal casinos in the state, the documents said. There are also options for online gambling, allowing growing online gambling sites like DraftKings to piggyback on the licenses. DraftKings on Wednesday announced a partnership with the PGA Tour allowing the company to run retail and mobile sports betting in Arizona, including a sports book at TPC Scottsdale, home of the Phoenix Open. The Phoenix Suns and FanDuel announced a similar deal on Thursday.

Private licenses are expected to bring in at least $100 million in new revenue for the general fund. The increase in tribal gaming will bring some increase to a special fund that distributes cash from a 1% to 8% maximum levy on tribal gaming revenues.