The FanDuel Sportsbook in the Footprint Center drew fans interested in betting on games on the first day of legalized sports betting in Arizona. (Photo by James Franks / Cronkite News)
Sports players have the option of placing bets at kiosks instead of betting windows. (Photo by James Franks / Cronkite News)
Former University of Arizona and NBA players Richard Jefferson (left) and Channing Frye spoke at the sports betting opening at the Suns Arena. (Photo by James Franks / Cronkite News)
PHOENIX – An early morning fanfare at Chase Field marked a brand new day in Arizona sports history.
At 7:30 a.m., sports and gambling fans stood in front of the Diamondbacks field, waiting to marry their two passions. After a lucky fan placed the first bet on one of the five temporary betting windows, legalized sports gambling eventually became the norm in the state.
The festivities continued at the Footprint Center later that afternoon as the suns heralded the advent of live sports betting as the Phoenix Raceway in Avondale prepared for its own historic moment.
Sports betting has already been legalized in 25 states plus the District of Columbia. Arizona joined them today when the sports betting operation officially and theatrically opened for business. The state’s professional teams upped the ante by announcing sports betting partnerships with companies like Caesars Sportsbook, FanDuel, and Barstool Sportsbook.
“We’re in the first inning of the industry,” said Trey Wingo, former longtime ESPN anchor and now chief trends officer and brand ambassador for Caesars Sportsbook, as he officially celebrated the launch of Caesars Sportsbook at Chase Field. “The climax of the first inning.”
It took a long time. After “five years in development,” sports betting is officially legal in Arizona, said Arizona Governor Doug Ducey. Ducey signed the bill in April after state lawmakers approved it.
Footprint Center welcomes first bettors
“Here we are and Phoenix is one of the fastest growing cities in America,” former NBA player Richard Jeffereson told a dizzying crowd when FanDuel Sportsbook launched at the Footprint Center, home of the Suns, Phoenix Mercury and Arizona Rattlers soccer teams.
Jefferson and Channing Frye, both retired Suns players, joined Ducey and other Valley luminaries at the downtown arena to celebrate the momentous day. The fray was followed by a NFL season opener watch party between the Dallas Cowboys and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the perfect setting for gamers and sports fans alike.
Earlier in the day, the Diamondbacks became the first MLB team to open a sports betting team after the team partnered with Caesars Sportsbook, which plans to convert the Game Seven Grill into a 20,000-square-foot sports betting restaurant and sports bar. Luis Gonzalez, the Diamondbacks legend, was there to place the first celebratory bets for charity.
“There have been many people who have asked us to help legalize sports games,” said Derrick Hall, president and CEO of Arizona Diamondbacks. “It happened anyway. Those who want to gamble have found ways to gamble. Now we can collect the data, control the data, monitor it, take safeguards for responsible gaming and also generate income for the state. ”
The revenue from sports betting at Chase Field goes to K-12 education, tribal nations, social security and infrastructure, Ducey said.
The partnership with Caesars Sportsbook is based on the premise of responsible gaming.
“We must do our part to promote, educate, act responsibly and protect the integrity of our sport and our industry,” said Hall.
Other possible ways to encourage responsible sports betting are removing or restricting alcohol advertisements in stadiums, Wingo said.
Anyone can now place physical bets on any sport in Chase Field’s betting windows. The Caesars Sportsbook app allows fans attending Diamondbacks games to place live bets in the game from their seats, increasing fan engagement.
“Regardless of the score or the game situation, people will always focus on the game because it can have wins, they can bet on the next inning, who will get the first run, who will? get the first home run, ”said Hall.
David Grolman, senior vice president of operations at Caesars Retail, said Game Seven Grill outside Chase Field will be converted into a 20,000 square foot sports betting company and will be open to the public by early 2022.
Grolman operates over 170 sports betting in the United States, but he says the book at Chase Field will be completely different from any other book.
“US sports betting is usually part of a casino where you already have this integrated gaming environment,” said Grolman. “We have to build that into the new sports betting.”
The Chase Field and Footprint Center book supplements will not change Arizona’s culture, Ducey said.
“Arizona is not Las Vegas, and with the modernization of this gaming compact, we won’t be Las Vegas,” said Ducey.
Phoenix Raceway introduces online betting
In Avondale, the Phoenix Raceway has adopted the state’s new gambling laws and partnered with Barstool Sportsbook. According to Jon Kaplowitz, senior VP of Penn Interactive, Barstool Sportsbook has proven that it can be a leader in NASCAR because of a combination of unique offerings and a premier mobile experience.
Penn National Gaming, a casino and rail gaming operator, bought 36% of Barstool Sportsbook earlier this year.
Although Barstool Sportsbook is new to the desert, Penn National Gaming has already had an impact on NASCAR.
“NASCAR has a longstanding relationship with Penn National Gaming,” said Julie Giese, president of Phoenix Raceway. “We have a bigger program with them from a NASCAR perspective and we knew each other and the potential of this partnership, so we’re happy to have them.”
Tim Clark, NASCAR’s Chief Digital Officer, is also excited to partner with Phoenix Raceway and Penn National Gaming because of the potential benefits.
“As our first authorized game provider, Penn National has invested in engaging NASCAR fans since we began building our position in sports betting,” said Clark.
Although NASCAR won’t travel to Arizona until November, Giese and her staff are trying to use the new gambling laws to connect with sports bettors across the state.
“We use sports betting to increase the interest and commitment of the fans and to reach new target groups,” said Giese. “It could be someone younger or a diverse audience. For us, we just want to continue to offer an open environment for everyone and thus arouse their interest. “
Phoenix ranks ninth in the top 25 NASCAR fan base markets according to 2019 Neilsen ratings. The new sports betting laws could deal a blow to the Phoenix Raceway.
“It enables us to bring NASCAR and Phoenix Raceway to a new audience,” said Giese. “Ultimately, someone who is learning about NASCAR wants to come to a race or on the track and experience what it’s about.”
Although Phoenix Raceway will be participating in Arizona’s new sports betting laws, the circuit is not expecting any personal bets anytime soon.
“For the championship weekend, most bets are made virtually at this point,” said Giese. “We’re working in a kind of on-site retail location, but everything will be virtual for this November.”
Although sports betting is developing in the Valley, Phoenix Raceway and NASCAR are excited about the future of the partnership.
“We are very excited to give our partners access to our passionate fan base in the greater Phoenix area,” said Clark.