Is Arizona’s Fast Sports Betting Launch Best For Responsible Gambling?

Posted By Derek Helling on July 28, 2021

Putting the toothpaste back into the tube, the genie back in the bottle, a number of analogies could apply to the current and future state of Arizona sports betting. Hopefully, none of them will apply as regulators in the state move on from finalizing Arizona betting rules.

The timeline for the launch of Arizona sportsbooks is very aggressive, still set for Sept. 9. That leaves the state little margin for error. These kinds of errors are difficult to correct as well.

Arizona sports betting rules done

Last Friday, the Dept. of Gaming voted to finalize its Arizona betting rules. Barring unforeseen intervention by the AZ Sec. of State, the Dept. can now move on to reviewing license applications. The period to submit those began Monday. Here’s how the rest of the current timeline looks:

  • Aug. 9: Initial license application period ends (interested parties can still submit applications past this date but will likely forfeit consideration for first available launch)
  • Aug. 10: Dept. starts reviewing the initial batch of license applications
  • Aug. 16: Dept. announces first set of qualifications (not approvals, merely stating whether applicants qualify for licensure)
  • Aug. 17: Allocation process begins (Dept. will decide which qualifiers will receive licenses)
  • Aug. 27: Dept. announces allocation decisions
  • Aug. 28: Licensees can start advertising and begin accepting account registrations online
  • Aug. 30: Dept. will consider additional applications
  • Sept. 9: First allowable date for wagering

Bettors should note that this timeline is at the pleasure of the regulators. There’s nothing in the state law that mandates any of these dates. The Dept. is free to alter it at any time. Instead of hard and fast dates, Arizonians should consider these deadlines goals that the Dept. and future licensees are trying to meet.

There’s a clear reason for that Sept. 9 launch goal. The incentive for doing so is significant. However, the downside to prioritizing speed over performance in this regard is serious.

NFL betting is a big deal, but so is responsible gaming

The next NFL season kicks off on Sept. 9, when the Dallas Cowboys visit the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. NFL futures, games, and props are by far the cash cow of the sports betting industry in the United States of America.

With an NFL team in-state, AZ sportsbooks risk losing a lot of handle each day of the season they aren’t operating. In-kind, the state would lose out on tax revenue. Thus, there’s a very real financial incentive to this pace.

Is the pace good for responsible gambling, though? The timeline gives Dept. staff less than two weeks to inspect licensees’ systems for compliance with applicable laws and regulations. Among the concerns are:

  • Persons under 21 years of age being able to place bets
  • People on the state’s self-exclusion list having access to the sportsbooks
  • Marketing materials being sent out to individuals on self-exclusion lists
  • Barring persons with tangible connections to sporting events from wagering on those events

Working in regulators’ favor is that the field of potential licensees have experience and proven track records when it comes to responsible gambling in other jurisdictions. Those include operators like DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook.

However, not all eventual licensees may be as experienced and possess such robust protocols. While the burden of providing safe sports betting products is on the licensee, the Dept. ultimately is accountable to the state’s citizens for policing its standards.

It will be more difficult to reign in sportsbooks for not meeting those standards after launch than it is to ensure compliance prior to the books going live. Additionally, for those who struggle with compulsive gambling, the cost of rushing approval could be high.

Is it possible to ensure compliance in the time the Dept. has allotted itself? The results will answer that question.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Chicago. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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