Will SaharaBets Desert Arizona Like the Coyotes?

The bones of the Arizona Coyotes have relocated to Salt Lake City as Utah Hockey Club.

The team’s former owner, Alex Meruelo, has reportedly relinquished his pursuit to reactivate the franchise through expansion after his attempt to acquire land for a new arena failed. That includes branding and naming rights, according to Front Office Sports.

Where does that leave SaharaBets, the Meruelo-owned sportsbook that used the Coyotes for market access in a state that generated $6.5 billion in handle in 2023?

In limbo, currently, according to the Arizona Department of Gaming.

Said spokesman Andrew Hawkes following an inquiry from Gaming Today:

“Regarding the Coyotes’ license in Arizona, the Arizona Department of Gaming (ADG) sent the Coyotes correspondence regarding the status of licensure in Arizona. ADG and the Coyotes are undergoing the appropriate administrative processes regarding action on this license.”

Sportsbooks in Arizona are required to declare their intentions to shutter 180 days before closure.

Arizona Law, Coyotes’ Status, Access Part of the Process

Arizona law required sportsbook operators to partner with either tribal gambling operations or professional sports teams or venues as a ticket to entry in 2021.

Ten spots were reserved for each.

The Arizona Cardinals NFL team, for example, partnered with BetMGM. DraftKings has digital access with TPC Scottsdale and a retail sportsbook at the PGA Tour stop. Currently, 16 of these types of sports betting partnerships are active, according to the Arizona Department of Gaming.

SaharaBets could, in theory, seek out a new partner. But could one be found for a sportsbook that accounted for about .1% of the Arizona handle last year, according to the Gaming Today sports betting revenue tracker. The Phoenix Mercury WNBA team (BallyBet) was the only pro franchise with a less-lucrative partner.

Muruelo could also, in theory, retain his license through ownership of the American Hockey League Roadrunners (get it?) who are based in Tucson.

State law doesn’t stipulate a course of action for a betting license if a team moves out of the state. The Coyotes sale closed on June 13. But state law does qualify a franchise for a sports betting partnership if they compete “at the highest level league or organizational play for its respective sport” in Arizona. A representative of the Phoenix Rising United Soccer League club broached this subject in a 2022 ADG meeting, arguing that their franchise qualified because Major League Soccer has no Arizona team. The Rising does not have a sportsbook partner, currently.

Meruelo made history when Sahara Bet arrived in 2022, becoming the first North American pro sports owner to launch their own sports betting platform. He also owns Sahara Las Vegas and Grand Sierra Resort in Reno through his gambling subsidiary, Meruelo Gaming, LLC.

SaharaBets representatives have not yet responded to a request for comment from Gaming Today.

About the Author
Brant James

Brant James

Lead Writer
Brant James is a lead writer who covers the sports betting industry and legislation at Gaming Today. An alum of the Tampa Bay Times, ESPN.com, espnW, SI.com, and USA Today, he's covered motorsports and the NHL as beats. He also once made a tail-hook landing on an aircraft carrier with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and rode to the top of Mt. Washington with Travis Pastrana. John Tortorella has yelled at him numerous times.

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