PHOENIX – A new ruling Monday by the U.S. Supreme Court could open the door to Arizonans legally betting for – or against – the Diamondbacks, the Cardinals and even the Wildcats, Sun Devils and Lumberjacks.
And it could mean more money for the state.
In a 6-3 decision the justices struck down a 1992 federal law which dictated that most states cannot allow such wagering. The majority concluded that the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act is an unconstitutional move by Congress to tell states what they can and cannot legalize.
“This is positive news,’’ Gov. Doug Ducey said on hearing the court struck down a 1992 law that until now has prohibited most states from authorizing their residents to place legal bets on the outcome of professional and amateur sports.
The majority concluded that Congress is free to outlaw sports betting under federal law on its own. But what it cannot do, the justices said, is tell states what they can and cannot make legal under their own statutes.
In some ways, the timing of the ruling could not be better.
It comes as Ducey already is negotiating with tribes to “modernize’’ the gaming compacts that voters authorized in 2002. These give the tribes the exclusive right to operate certain forms of casino gambling in exchange for the state getting a share of the profits.
Those compacts begin to expire after 2022. And Ducey has made no secret he thinks there’s a better deal to be had, with the state getting more cash.
“This ruling gives Arizona options that could benefit our citizens and our general fund,’’ the governor said.
Press aide Daniel Scarpinato said that specifically includes a possible trade-off: The tribes would get the exclusive right to take bets on sports and the state would reap a bigger share of the overall take.
And Ducey, for his part, has not been averse to the idea of expanded gaming to help balance the budget. In fact, his original proposal to fund teacher raises included allowing the Arizona Lottery to start a keno game, a plan that was subsequently scrapped.
Odds are the tribes see opportunities, too.
“I think the Navajo Nation is very interested in sports betting and in finding ways to expand their casino offerings,’’ said attorney Steven Hart who represents the state’s largest tribe.
That’s also the position of Stephen Roe Lewis, chairman of the Gila River Indian Community.
“We are looking forward to discussing with the state how we can go about working together on developing this opportunity, which could be a win-win for the state of Arizona and Arizona tribes,’’ he said.