Arizona is staunchly anti-online betting. Most states in the US at least permit online horse betting and fantasy sports. Some states even have online poker and casino games now. Not Arizona. The state is determined to keep all wagering restricted to its tribal casinos and one horse racing track.
The one type of online betting permitted in Arizona is wagering on games of skill. Skill games don’t resemble traditional gambling by any stretch. Instead, they allow customers to bet on the outcomes of games such as Solitaire, Bejeweled and Scrabble. Each game is set up as a contest between two people who vie for the top score and real money payout.
WorldWinner.com is the most popular gaming site that falls under this category. It is able to remain legal across most of the United States due to it only including games that are clearly contests of skill. World Winner is a fairly small gaming site with dated software but it does offer a break from the usual routine of playing popular games purely for fun.
Other than that, there are no other options for real money gaming over the internet in the state. This is one of the worst states to live in if you have a hankering for online gambling. State gaming statutes appear to prohibit even the act of gambling. Arizona law defines gambling as follows:
“…risking something of value for an opportunity to win a benefit, which is awarded by chance.”
Anyone caught “benefitting from gambling” can be slapped with a Class 1 misdemeanor which is punishable by a fine of up to $2500 and up to six months in jail. Class 1 misdemeanors are the most serious form of misdemeanor under Arizona law.
The law does not specifically mention online betting, but these broad definitions could easily be construed to apply to gambling at online casinos. It is also unclear if poker is considered “gambling” under this law. State authorities have in the past raided live poker games and charged people with the promotion of gambling. Going by that, we can assume that the authorities do lump poker in with the general definition of gambling.
It should also be noted that nobody has ever been charged for placing bets online in Arizona. The state clearly takes real-world poker and gambling seriously, but it seems to have no appetite for hunting down people participating online from the comfort of home.
Fantasy Sports Betting
Arizona is one of the five states in the US that prohibit online fantasy sports betting. The applicable statute includes a broad definition of gambling that appears to prohibit fantasy sports leagues. All US-based fantasy sites therefore do not accept Arizonans.
Federal laws exempt fantasy sports from prohibition, but Arizona has a different take on the issue. States do not have the authority to expand on what’s legal under federal law but they do have the authority to enact stricter laws. Arizona takes the second option and bans all forms of real money fantasy leagues.
In 2014, legislators introduced SB 1468 as an amendment to ARS 13-3301 that would have exempted fantasy sports and made it legal. The Arizona Indian Gaming Association lobbied strongly against the bill and it never made it to the Senate floor. Nevertheless, fantasy sports proponents remain hopeful that they will eventually find a way to pass a bill to legalize the activity.
The closest Arizona has come to changing its hardline anti-gambling stance was the passage of was SB 1282 which allows residents to bet on horse races over the phone. The bill was signed into law in May 2014 and does not include the internet. It only permits calling in bets on races that take place at licensed tracks anywhere in the country.
Off-track betting (OTB) is permitted in certain locations across the state. OTB facilities simulcast live horse races and accept bets right there. If you don’t live near the state’s only active racetrack, you can always visit an OTB location to watch the races in real time and place a few bets.
Legalization of online poker won’t be happening any time soon in Arizona. Some of the country’s most formidable gambling adversaries hail from Arizona. Senators John McCain and Jon Kyl both come from Arizona and both are very much against online gambling. In fact, Jon Kyl was one of the main supporters of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA).
During his tenure as a Senator, Kyle attempted to pass legislation prohibiting online gambling multiple times. Failure after failure finally led him to tack on the UIGEA as a rider to an unrelated piece of legislation (the SAFE Port Act) at midnight the day before Congress recessed for the 2006 elections, thereby preventing the Senate from voting on the UIGEA as its own bill.
The only hope we have for change is a change in the state’s lawmakers. Jon Kyl is retired but Jon McCain remains an active Senator determined to prevent the expansion of internet poker anywhere in the US. Democrats and small government Republicans will most likely be more open to the idea.
Internet Casinos in Arizona
Online casinos are clearly illegal in Arizona and will remain so for the foreseeable future. There are no pending legislative efforts to change that and the tribal gaming industry remains staunchly opposed to any expansion of online gambling. Competition is a scary thing for those in the land-based gaming industry in this state.
Interestingly, the Pascua Yaquis tribe has an online casino that does include elements of real money play. The official website for the Casino del Sol in Tucson has an area where visitors can log in to play virtual slot machines and blackjack tables. Customers start with one million chips free of charge. When those play chips run out, they have the option to pay real money for more virtual chips.
This is legal because the casino site does not offer any real money prizes. That’s right; you can pay real money to gamble online at Casino del Sol but you cannot win anything. They keep your money and you get to play with fake chips. State authorities are aware of the website but have said it is legal because it does not fit the definition of gambling.