NHL’s Arizona Coyotes push for sports betting law change amid tribal opposition, arena relocation

NHL’s Arizona Coyotes are pushing for a change to the state’s law on sports betting. The pro sports team is seeking a change that would allow it to keep running its mobile sports gaming operation once it relocates from Gila River Arena in Glendale to Arizona State University’s hockey arena starting next season.

Given ASU’s arena only holds 5,000 people, and the gaming law allowing pro sports teams to run retail and mobile sports betting requires facilities to seat at least 10,000, the NHL team would require a change to keep its operations. The Coyotes don’t plan to open retail operations at ASU, and instead seek to just keep running mobile betting.

However, there is a question as to whether a change in the law is needed for the team to continue to operate mobile gambling. And, thus far, answers have been contradictory: “When you ask 10 different attorneys the same question, you get 10 different answers,” the Coyotes’ Andrew Diss said, according to Associated Press.

The Coyotes’ representative says that the team does not find comfort that it will be able to maintain its online gaming license should it move to the smaller ASU facility, and thus seeks the change. The relocation is set to be only temporary, running for three years, as the team develops a new $1.7 billion project including restaurants, shops, apartments and a new hockey arena in Tempe.

We’re headed to Tempe! 🙌

We’ve reached a multi-year agreement with Arizona State University to play at the Sun Devils’ new multi-purpose arena beginning next season. Details: https://t.co/7t17FoTEqE

— Arizona Coyotes (@ArizonaCoyotes) February 10, 2022

But even though the Arizona Senate’s appropriations committee approved the Coyotes’ request on Tuesday, the NHL team is set to face opposition from tribal gaming interests in the state, which oppose the sports betting change.

The Arizona Indian Gaming Association, along with a range of Native American tribes, have voiced their concern with the measure. They argue that the 2021 law that legalized sports betting was part of a complex deal they negotiated with Gov. Doug Ducey that updated their tribal gaming compacts, further reports AP.

According to an attorney for the association, a law that was just passed last year should not be changed just because a team finds itself needing a new arena, and said that the updated tribal compact was dependent on limiting when, where and how sports teams run their operations.

Gila River Arena in Glendale

That was a compromise by the tribes and as well as the professional leagues and teams, and to go back and change that understanding, especially less than a year later, for something that is really self-created … shouldn’t land at this body to address,” attorney Bradley Bledsoe Downes told the committee, according to the previously cited source.

Tribal opposition to the proposed law change was met with a mixed response. Sen. Sonny Borrelli, a Republican from Lake Havasu City, called it “ridiculous,” stating that ASU would be the real winner, given Coyotes plan to spend $40 million for improvements to the University’s new multipurpose arena.

“To see this, this opposition from the tribe, is really upsetting because this does not negatively affect the tribes one iota. None. Zero,” Borrelli said on Tuesday. “It’s moving from one location to the other, and it’s temporary.”

According to an ASU statement from February, the NHL team has committed to paying nearly $20 million upfront for the improvements. The Coyotes’ exit from Glendale, after the city refused to extend its lease on the Gila River Arena for another season, follows years of a difficult working relationship.