Online Gambling For Real Money in Arizona

Arizona has had legal gambling for over 70 years now, and have shown at least some progress in expanding it over this time, although the progress has been pretty slow. While many may think that Arizona has a lot of ground to make up to catch up to the more permissive states, they don’t have to go anywhere near as far as they think.

We will show you why the Arizona gambling scene is a lot better than it appears, and in particular, why gamblers in the state do not have to wait to be delivered to the promised land, because the promised land is already here now, they just don’t know it because no one has explained it to them properly. This is among the things that we’re going to do for you here.

History of Gambling in Arizona

Arizona Online Casinos and SlotsArizona has had widespread gambling since the frontier days, and one of the first laws that was passed once Arizona became a state in 1912 was to ban commercial gambling. Seeing the distinction being made between personal and commercial gambling right from the outset well characterizes Arizona’s approach to gambling, where the act of gambling itself is seen as permissible, even back in 1912 when the view of gambling being objectionable in itself was much more rampant than it is today.

Things started to loosen up in 1949, when the Arizona government relented enough to approve the state’s first pari-mutuel racetracks. There are currently 4 major racetracks in Arizona that players can wager on horses. Arizona also added a state lottery to the mix in 1980, which has been very successful.

Arizona has a high population of Native Indians, with about 10% of the population of the country’s Indians living on Arizona tribal lands, and when the federal government approved tribal gaming in 1988, the Arizona tribes wanted in on this as well.

States reacted to the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in various ways, some choosing to just allow the Indians to offer gaming on their lands, and others, like Arizona, vowing to fight this law and mounting legal challenges. In spite of the tribes ultimately having the law on their side, as federal law was found to take precedence over state law on federally regulated tribal lands, this didn’t prevent states from taking on the tribes anyway in the courts, to harass them if nothing else.

This is why we see Indian tribes signing compacts with states, to reach a mutually agreeable settlement such that state authorities will call off their dogs. The battle was joined in 1990 when several Arizona tribes started offering slots on their reservations, which the state fought heartily and led to a legal battle that would take several years to fully resolve.

The state ended up reaching an agreement with 16 or the state’s 21 tribes in the period between 1992 and 1994, where these tribes now had the assent of the state to offer both slots and table games. In 2003, the compacts were renewed, and these 16 tribes continue to offer a full range of gambling options, with sports betting expected to be added at some point soon.

Nothing much has changed over the past 2 decades, where we still have commercial gambling in Arizona limited to the state’s 25 tribal casinos, horse racing, and the state lottery. While many other states have had their gambling scene evolve lately, Arizona is standing pat, for now at least.

Arizona Gambling Laws

While some states have clear anti-gambling laws which simply exclude the possibility of any gambling not being deemed illegal, the law in other states are muddier. Arizona comes in on the muddier side, at least as far as it comes to the act of gambling itself.

Most of Arizona’s gambling laws are targeted towards those who offer gambling, and there might be some prohibitions against gambling itself in here, but we are left to guess, something we should not have to do when it comes to laws.

Arizona’s law on “betting and wagering” reads as follows:

A. Subject to the exceptions contained in section 5-112, no person may engage for a fee, property, salary or reward in the business of accepting, recording or registering any bet, purported bet, wager or purported wager or engage for a fee, property, salary or reward in the business of selling wagering pools or purported wagering pools with respect to the result or purported result of any race, sporting event, contest or other game of skill or chance or any other unknown or contingent future event or occurrence whatsoever.

B. A person shall not directly or indirectly knowingly accept for a fee, property, salary or reward anything of value from another to be transmitted or delivered for wagering or betting on the results of a race, sporting event, contest or other game of skill or chance or any other unknown or contingent future event or occurrence whatsoever conducted within or without this state or anything of value as reimbursement for the prior making of such a wager or bet on behalf of another person.

This is at best very awkward, and while there is no doubt that this makes offering gambling in any form a crime in Arizona, a class 1 misdemeanor, this section deals with accepting anything of value to facilitate gambling in any form, and stating it thusly would have saved them a lot of words. Only a careless reading of this would indicate gambling itself is against the law.

Things do get more interesting when we also look at the crime of “benefiting from gambling”:

A. Except for amusement or regulated gambling, a person commits benefiting from gambling if he knowingly obtains any benefit from gambling.
B. Benefiting from social gambling as a player is not unlawful under this section.

While it’s not made clear what “benefiting from gambling” means, if one makes a wager, it would not be possible to “knowingly benefit” from the bet unless you already know the outcome. Even a professional gambler would not knowingly benefit from any given session or even going forward because he or she cannot know whether they will benefit. This surely cannot be reasonably seen to apply to the act of gambling.

However, what really muddies this is the second part, where this seems to suggest that gambling as a player would be prohibited if the gambling was classified as “social,” where the intention of legislators may have been to include it even though it doesn’t fit the law. Whatever meaning of “benefiting” in part B cannot have the same meaning as in part A because whether or not one will or may benefit is unknown at the time of the wager.

This is very carelessly written if the intention was to make gambling illegal, and the onus is on legislators to properly elucidate laws so that a reasonable person would be able to understand and then have the opportunity to comply. As written, we are left to conclude that promoting gambling would be a crime, and the state may have intended gambling to be illegal as well, but have not succeeded in elucidating this well enough to rely on or even have much confidence at all of its applicability to gambling.

When we look to how this law is being enforced, the enforcement part is directed towards the operators, where they charge the operators but do not charge players. This is where the rubber meets the road with the law and regardless of what the law may say, if we are concerned about how the law may be applied, how it is applied is what we really need to look at. There doesn’t seem to be any real intention to prosecute players in this state.

Land-Based Gambling in Arizona

Arizona’s 25 tribal casinos does provide some pretty good reach for casino gambling in the state, even though no one is going to confuse Arizona with neighboring Nevada. Given how hard Arizona fought against the Indians bringing gambling to their state, and their continued reluctance to entertain the possibility of commercial casinos like they have in Nevada and elsewhere, they are in no hurry to promote change.

Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino just outside the Phoenix area is an Indian casino that attracted the branding of a major casino chain. This is more hotel than casino these days, as they have tripled the size of the hotel to 529 rooms now and only have a casino floor of 40,000 square feet.

Casino Arizona in nearby Scottsdale isn’t a hotel, but they do have a 100,000 square foot casino, with 998 slots, 50 table games, and a bingo hall that seats 1000. The Casino Del Sol Tucson has a 200,000 square feet casino with 1000 slots, 22 gaming tables including poker, as well as bingo.

The Blue Water Casino Parker isn’t the biggest in the state by any means, with only 500 gaming machines and a few table games, but they do have a 200 room hotel, 4 restaurants, as well as cash and tournament poker. The We-Ko-Pa Casino is more substantially sized with a 166,000 square foot casino including slots, casino table games, and poker.

The Vee Quiva Hotel and Casino has a AAA Four Diamond hotel, a 70,000 square foot casino, 950 slot machines, 36 table games, and a 16 table poker room. The Wild Horse Pass Casino has an even bigger AAA Four Diamond hotel, 100,000 square feet, 1,000 slot machines, 44 gaming tables, and a poker room.

The Talking Stick Scottsdale has a 497 room hotel with a 240,000 square feet casino, 700 slots, 50 table games, a poker room, and 100,000 square feet of meeting space. There are 17 more casinos of small to modest size that offer the whole casino experience.

Arizona also features 4 horse racetracks that you can bet at, including Prescott Downs and Yavapai Downs in Prescott, Rialto Downs in Tucson, and Turf Paradise in Phoenix. Arizona also offers a state lottery, charitable gaming, and the opportunity for real money social gambling.

Arizona Online Casinos & Slots Gambling

As far as Arizona regulated online gambling goes, like many states, there simply isn’t an appetite for this at this time, and there is nothing in the works to make this a reality anytime soon. When this does come, it will likely be confined to sports betting, at least initially, with operations run by Arizona’s numerous Indian tribes, who are chomping at the bit to see land-based sports betting, especially the Navajo.

The Navajo are not only the biggest tribe in Arizona, they are the biggest in the country, and in spite of having a few smaller casinos, are in trouble financially. This is serving to have the drums to bring on land-based sports betting beat a little louder, and while Arizona isn’t known to give in to these things very easily, this certainly can’t hurt.

Regulating online gambling would mostly be to the benefit of the tribes and the state, since the people of Arizona have already had access to regulated online gambling ever since online gambling began, it just hasn’t been regulated by the Arizona government.

This is important for both the tribes, or whomever would be appointed to run Arizona regulated online gambling, as well as the state, but not so much for players, even though this would be of benefit to them as well. The state of Arizona, like most states, have to confront the reality that Arizonians already have access to all the regulated real money online gambling they wish, and no not require the permission of the state to take advantage of it, and the state is powerless to stop them.

It only takes a few minutes surfing the internet for people from Arizona to find sites which are happy to take them and allow them to play real money online poker, real money casino games, and bet on whatever sports they wish, even the most obscure ones. They can bet on all sorts of things online, such as elections, by simply travelling to other countries virtually where all of this stuff is both legal and widely available.

There are a lot of real money online gambling sites located in a number of jurisdictions that could care less about how the state of Arizona feels about online gambling, because they don’t answer to them and instead abide by the laws of their own countries and jurisdictions. The United States tried to stop Antigua from letting their sites cater to Americans when online gambling first hit the scene, and took their case to the World Trade Organization, who ruled in favor of Antigua and fined the Americans for even trying to stop them doing business with U.S. residents.

While Arizona or any state or federal body do not have any standing in addressing foreign commerce, they do have standing with their own residents, but whether gambling online in a given state is permitted by law or not, it makes no difference in this arena because even if you have a law against it, it is not enforceable. It therefore doesn’t matter whether Arizona’s gambling laws make online gambling illegal or not, as difficult as it would be to argue that it does, because you can’t prosecute these crimes even if they are crimes.

This actually puts an end to any discussion of Arizona even limiting real money online gambling in their state. As long as there are sites located elsewhere that are willing to serve Arizona gamblers, we will have a market, and a free market at that because the government does not have the means to intervene aside from trying to use propaganda to deceive players, such as this being contrary to federal law even though there has never been a federal law directed at players at all, which is completely non-controversial.

People don’t even get arrested in Arizona for gambling even though there may be some potential for this, to allow us to see how the courts are to interpret state law as it pertains to engaging in gambling, which would be plenty interesting. Even when they bust land based gambling operations, the players scatter like bugs and the operators are the only ones wearing the cuffs.

They therefore could arrest players caught gambling at land-based operations, but they don’t, and with online gambling, they cannot even if they wanted to. What they could do is realize that their not wanting this isn’t going to matter and then seek to regulate this themselves according to their tastes, such that their regulated version would at least compete with offshore regulated sites, and compete pretty well, benefiting all stakeholders.

Meanwhile, there’s no need for players to wait for any of this, and we are happy to provide you with the best choices out there for Arizonians, to ensure that you are in good hands while you stick your tongue out at state lawmakers who are the ones missing out here.

Future of Gambling in Arizona

Aside from Arizona finally getting land-based sports betting soon, there’s not a lot planned as far as changes to the Arizona gambling scene. In spite of Arizona being willing to turn over all commercial gambling over to their Indian tribes, and even let them offer sports betting soon, they aren’t eager to do anything else, even allow their tribes to offer real money online gambling to their residents on demand.

We can only assume that Arizona still sees a significant downside to their permitting more widespread gambling and especially opening things wide open with online gambling. The fact that they prefer the tribes to handle it all and exclude other interests does tell us in itself that they view gambling negatively to some degree, and to a pretty significant degree actually.

States that have been more successful in opening up their regulated gambling markets don’t just assume that they have much more control than they actually do, and one of the things that can be looked at is the extent of illegal land-based gambling, where the market is underserved and has to rely on the black market to become satisfied. Stopping land-based gambling is like playing whack-a-mole, where you control a small percentage of this but each time you arrest someone, someone else steps in to fill the need.

When it comes to online gambling, they need to look at how much goes on already and ask themselves if they want in on this or not. They need to be willing to admit that they do not have any control over what goes on online, be willing to look at what the reality is, and prefer that they tax and regulate this versus leaving it all up to the open market.

It therefore doesn’t matter if they consider online gambling to be undesirable or not, as their opinion doesn’t even count, and this is the part they need to fully grasp. As they struggle to reach this level of understanding, all these other sites regulated and licensed in other jurisdictions will continue to have the market all to themselves, and people will continue to gamble online all they want as they do now.

The future therefore isn’t all that bright as far as the expansion of gambling in Arizona goes, but the people of Arizona already have it pretty good. If they wish to enjoy the experience of land-based casinos, there are plenty of tribal casinos scattered throughout the state. If they want to gamble online, a host of great options await them, and they can even enjoy the expert guidance that we provide them to point them in the right direction. That’s a pretty nice selection already.

Arizona Online Slots & Casinos FAQs
  • How long has Arizona had legal gambling?

    Arizonians have been gambling since the frontier days, and waited until they became a state in 1912 to pass laws against it. This law made all commercial gambling illegal, although the gambling in Arizona has always been what is considered social gambling and that has continued to be permitted throughout Arizona’s history. Arizona has added several other legal forms since, but Arizona has never been without legal gambling between players.

  • Why do states seem to prefer social gambling over commercial gambling?

    If you view gambling from the perspective of it causing players to lose money, if they are at least losing their entire amounts to other people, by virtue of luck or skill or both, we at least get a zero sum game as far as the gains and losses of players. What this view misses is the entertainment benefit that gambling provides, and when people choose commercial over social gambling, they are voting with their money for the fact the overall entertainment value is higher and justified.

  • Is it against the law to gamble in Arizona?

    Arizona’s gambling laws are written very carelessly and it’s not clear at all whether gambling is against the law or not in this state. The crime of gambling is based upon knowingly benefiting from it, and it is only operators, not players, that knowingly benefit. It is in the nature of wagers that the outcome is not known at the time of the wager, where placing bets never involve knowing that you will win the bet. Operators knowingly benefit though from their skim.

  • Is it still possible to be charged with gambling in Arizona?

    If people got arrested for gambling in Arizona, it wouldn’t be the first time that someone was charged with a crime with the law making it a crime unclear. This is a particular issue with gambling laws, and especially so with Arizona’s. There are different ways to interpret the law, from applying the law as written to adding your own assumptions, such as a belief that the intent of the lawmakers was to at least swing at players even though they may have missed.

  • What legal land-based gambling options does Arizona offer?

    Arizona allows their residents to do as much social gambling as they wish, as well as partake in approved charitable gaming. Arizona has had pari-mutuel horse race betting for over 70 years, and offer 4 venues, as well as a state lottery. They also have a total of 25 Class III casinos spread throughout the state, with most near major cities. Arizona is also now considering allowing casinos to offer land-based sports betting, although this is still in the works.

  • What real money online gambling options does Arizona have?

    The Arizona government has yet to decide to license and regulate real money online gambling, and this has yet to even merit serious discussion among legislators. We need to realize though that this does mean that there is no regulated real money online gambling available in Arizona, just because the Arizona government does not regulate it. There are many sites regulated elsewhere that Arizonians can choose among.

  • Why won’t Arizona allow non-tribal casinos?

    While there may be a worthy distributive goal with leaving all the casino gaming in the state to its Indian tribes, if that were the concern, they would allow the Indians to reap the notable rewards that offering real money online gambling in the state would bring them. The Indians are lobbying the state for this, but it is falling upon deaf ears thus far. Arizona obviously still stands opposed to commercial gambling, to enough of a degree to continue to decline this option.

  • Why is it a mistake for Arizona to continue to oppose online gambling?

    The fact that people are free to gamble online all they want in Arizona should put an end to any idea the state may have that they are stopping it by not wishing to become involved. It isn’t even clear whether online gambling or any gambling is legal or not in Arizona, although it wouldn’t make any difference anyway since they can’t catch you. The state could both benefit financially and exert some control over this market, one that they have no control over right now.

  • How reliable are offshore regulated real money online gambling sites?

    Some might question the reliability of a gambling license issued in a far flung and very small jurisdiction, who might just be selling these licenses with little regulation. Although most of these regulators are reputable enough, it is the transparency of the internet that really does the regulation here, where their shortcomings get broadcast around the world in real time. This keeps them in line, although being aware of which measure up and which ones do not is still very important.

  • How can Arizonians learn the best online sites out there that serve them?

    Being sufficiently aware of the reputation and quality of the various choices out there for Arizonians requires much more dedication than it would make sense for players to have. It is best to leave this up to professionals, who spend their days evaluating and re-assessing online gambling sites and know enough about each to be able to compare and recommend. We offer our readers this guidance.

Associate Writer: Simon loves to bet on sports as well as play online slots, and he has a keen eye for sorting out the honest sites from the not so honest.

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