6-week convergence of major sporting events could make Arizona betting capital of the world

Arizona has embraced the legalization of sports betting, and sites including FanDuel at Footprint Center have helped the state become second fastest in the nation to reach a billion dollars in total wagers. (File photo by James Franks/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – Arizona is gearing up for a sports year like no other, and odds are the state will become the sports betting capital of the world, at least for a few weeks.

The Valley plays host to a national semifinal in the College Football Playoff at the Fiesta Bowl Dec. 31 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale. Then Super Bowl LVII comes to the same stadium Feb. 12, 2023. Finally, the Waste Management Phoenix Open golf tournament unfolds at TPC Scottsdale Feb. 10-12 during Super Bowl week.

Through it all, hundreds of thousands of fans – and bettors – will descend on the Valley.

Add to the mix the ones that are already here, and the impact could be staggering. In the state’s first year of legalized gambling, Arizonans wagered nearly $4.8 billion, according to a report released by the Arizona Department of Gaming. The state was the second fastest in the nation to reach a billion dollars in total wagers, behind New York.

Arizona now has 25 sportsbooks, which includes those at bars and restaurants. Options during the state’s six-week stretch of high-profile sporting events will be plentiful.

“I think it’s a really exciting sports year ahead,” said Chris Jones, the vice president of communications at FanDuel. “I think, from a sporting perspective, there’s a lot that will be going on inside the state. We need to stay humble and stay focused on building the business, ensuring we are growing at a pace and speed that makes sense, and is sustainable.”

While those events will take place in Glendale and Scottsdale, the Super Bowl’s signature fan festivities are planned for Margaret T. Hance Park in downtown Phoenix, a short walk from the Footprint Center. And all three of the major events bring thousands of visitors to downtown hotels and restaurants.

On Sept. 9 of last year, FanDuel, the web-based sports gambling and fantasy operation, announced the opening of a new state-of-the-art brick-and-mortar FanDuel Retail Sportsbook at Footprint Center, home to the Phoenix Suns and Mercury.

A little more than one year after opening, the company is poised for what could be a gigantic leap forward with several major sporting events coming to the area.

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The 7,400-square foot sportsbook is located on the north side of the Footprint Center and features 4o televisions, 26 betting kiosks, a full-service bar and food options.

More than $14.4 million was wagered at the Footprint Center location’s betting kiosks between September and December of 2021, according to wagering reports from the Arizona Department of Gaming (ADG). In the latest June 2022 revenue report, FanDuel topped $2.3 million in gross receipts. For context, the Caesars retail sportsbook outside of Chase Field grossed $331,583.

Although the retail portion of FanDuel is a pivotal segment of the business, the mobile side utilizing FanDuel’s app makes up an even larger percentage of Arizona’s betting landscape. The company has successfully executed on both sides of its business.

Calli Varner, the editor and senior correspondent for ArizonaCasinos.com, said several factors came together to explain the company’s early success.

“I think it’s location, strategy and luck,” Varner said. “I think FanDuel was very smart when they marketed and partnered with the Phoenix Suns and built it in the Footprint Center. I mean, they launched right away, and they were able to have that sportsbook be one of the first to open as well.”

The Arizona sports gambling scene continuing to expand, including the grand opening in September of the BetMGM sportsbook outside of State Farm Stadium, which the NFL Cardinals call home. TPC Scottsdale is expected to open a DraftKings site in 2023.

FanDuel has employed an ever-growing media strategy that focuses on the entertainment value of sports wagering.

“FanDuel really wants this to be a form of entertainment,” Jones said. “We understand that this is the area that enhances someone’s enjoyment of the game. It certainly enhances engagement and viewership of games.”

The last time Arizona hosted the Super Bowl back in 2015, it was the most profitable game in Super Bowl history. The game created a $700 million economic impact in the Valley, according to research conducted by Arizona State’s W.P. Carey School of business, and blew away numbers from the previous two times Arizona played host to the Super Bowl.

Keep in mind that, in 2015, the Waste Management Open was played during the same week. Add the Fiesta Bowl’s national semifinal on the last day of 2022 to the already jam-packed Open and Super Bowl, and Arizona is locked in for what could be the most significant economic few weeks in the state’s history.

Sam Stern sam stern
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Sam Stern expects to graduate in May 2024 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism and a minor in business. Stern has interned with Sports360az and Take it Easley Productions, and he is an editorial intern at the Phoenix Business Journal.