Andre White, 37, and Darius Ellis, 29, both of Phoenix, sipped doubles of Casamigos tequila on the rocks as they planned their bets beneath the glow of 40 television screens.
Their teams, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Dallas Cowboys, kicked off the NFL season on Thursday — the same day Arizona became the 26th state to allow wagering on sports. South Dakota and Washington state also allowed sports betting the same day.
“I’m excited,” said White, a Bucs fan, sitting inside the brand-new FanDuel sportsbook at the Footprint Center downtown. “Now we really don’t have to go to Vegas for betting on sports.”
Bringing sports betting to Arizona wasn’t a slam dunk, though.
It took Ducey’s administration years to renegotiate tribal compacts, allowing additional games and much higher bets at casinos in exchange for professional sports teams opening a limited number of sportsbooks off tribal lands.
Cheerleaders of sports betting, including Ducey, said it would generate state revenue, while opponents said the state shouldn’t bank on vice. Taxes on wagers and licensing fees for sportsbooks are estimated to generate $15 million in state revenue annually.
A last-minute legal challenge brought by the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe was dismissed by a judge just three days before Arizonans placed their first bets.
But with the legal hurdle cleared for now, now Arizonans 21 years and older can place bets on sporting events — from the minor leagues to overseas contests to the upcoming NASCAR Championship Race at Phoenix Raceway — in person or online through their cellphone.
Two sportsbooks opened locations in Phoenix on Thursday, one by FanDuel at the Footprint Center and a Caesars Sportsbook at Chase Field. Ducey attended opening ceremonies for each, without making any bets himself.
The Phoenix Suns Gorilla had the honor of slicing through the red ribbon inside the basketball arena.
“This is a great win for the state of Arizona,” said Suns president and CEO Jason Rowley.
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