Is Sports Betting Legal in Arizona?

Arizona is among the most prohibitive states in the United States toward gambling. Yet, since Congress passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in 1988, casino gambling has proliferated in the Grand Canyon State. There are now 24 casinos operating on tribal lands within the state.

However, when it comes to wagering on their favorite sports team — like the Arizona Cardinals or Diamondbacks, residents of this southwestern U.S. state still have to look elsewhere for an explanation on the betting line. Many will travel the short distance across state lines into Nevada or even the famous Las Vegas Strip in search of that big sports betting win.

Betting Laws in Arizona

More than five million people live in Arizona. Phoenix, its capital and largest city, is home to 1.4 million residents.

Gambling, whether it’s horse racing or slot machines, is regulated at the state level. Generally speaking, all legalized gambling within Arizona is limited to the following areas:

  • Tribal casinos.
  • Horse racing.
  • Official state lottery.

Arizona’s gaming activities are governed by Arizona Tribal-State Gaming Compacts between the state and 21 separate Native American tribes. All revenues from gaming are required to be used for tribal governmental and charitable ventures only. The minimum age for tribal casinos and pari-mutuel wagering is 18. 

Arizona has dozens of casino and pari-mutuel facilities which are spread out across 26 cities throughout the state. The city of Tucson has the most casinos with five, including Casino del Sol, which opened in 2011 and is the largest gaming facility in the state.

Horse racing in Arizona is regulated by the Arizona Department of Racing. It features live racing at three racetracks — Rillito Downs Park Racetrack, Turf Paradise Racecourse and Yavapai Downs Racecourse.

Since January 2017, live greyhound racing has been prohibited in Arizona. At one time there were five operational greyhound tracks in the state — Apache Greyhound Park, Black Canyon Greyhound Park, Phoenix Greyhound Park, Tucson Greyhound Park and Yuma Greyhound Park. 

The last track to cease live racing, Tucson Greyhound Park, ended its operations in mid-2016, though it and Apache Greyhound Park continue to offer simulcast racing.

The Arizona Lottery is a state agency in Arizona. It is a member of the Multi-State Lottery Association. Draw games include Mega Millions, Powerball, The Pick, Fantasy 5, Pick 3, 5 Card Cash and All or Nothing. Proceeds from sales of lottery tickets, nearly $4 million weekly, fund a variety of state programs.

The state requires lottery players to be at least 21. The minimum age was 18 until June 1, 2003.

Arizona Sports Betting Laws

The sports gambling industry had a big win in May when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a federal law that banned wagering on college and professional games nationwide.

After citing the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 as unconstitutional, the Supreme Court left gambling legalization to individual state legislatures.

A study by Eiler & Krecjik Gaming in May predicted 32 states will have legalized sports gambling in five years and 14 states within two years.

Arizona lawmakers are finding themselves in a pinch similar to other states — it’s slow going on the sports betting front because of existing tribal compacts. Arizona hasn’t made any real progress on sports betting this year, and part of the reason is what’s often referred to as the “poison pill” that states dealing with tribal compacts must consider.

In Arizona’s case, according to a recent report, the state would lose significant revenue should it introduce sports betting without reworking the tribal pacts. 

The Arizona legislature has considered sports betting and daily fantasy in past sessions, but neither has gained much traction.

Arizona’s Major Sports Teams

Arizona Cardinals (NFL)

The Arizona Cardinals are perhaps this state’s most popular team. Based in the Phoenix metropolitan area, the Cardinals have made four playoff appearances since their inaugural season in 1988.

The Cardinals have won three NFC West Division titles, including a franchise best 13-3 record in 2015. The team is 6-5 overall in playoff games and lost its only appearance in the NFL championship. The Pittsburgh Steelers edged the Cardinals 27-23 in Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa, Fla.

Phoenix Suns (NBA)

The Phoenix Suns, who play their home games at Talking Stick Resort Arena in downtown Phoenix, have won two conference titles (1978, 1993) but have never won an NBA Final. They are the only team in their division not to be based in California.

The club, which began play as an expansion team in 1968, has taken a backseat to the Cardinals in popularity, probably because they haven’t made the playoffs in years.

Arizona Diamondbacks (MLB)

The Arizona Diamondbacks, who joined the National League’s West Division in 1998, won their first and only World Series title just three years later in 2001. They remain the only major league sports team from Arizona to have won a championship title.

The team has played every home game in franchise history at Chase Field, formerly known as Bank One Ballpark, in Phoenix. The D-backs have won the NL West five times and also advanced to the playoffs once (2017) as a wild card team.

Arizona Coyotes (NHL)

The Winnipeg Jets moved to Phoenix on July 1, 1996 and were renamed the Phoenix Coyotes. On June 27, 2014, the team changed its geographic name from “Phoenix” to “Arizona.” 

The Arizona Coyotes first played at America West Arena in downtown Phoenix before moving to Glendale’s Gila River Arena in 2003. They have won a division title once (2011), but have never won the Stanley Cup.