HomeArizona Sports Betting NewsArizona Coyotes to Keep Gambling License Despite Sale to Utah

Arizona Coyotes to Keep Gambling License Despite Sale to Utah

Sports betting is a dominant figure in the American news cycle, which might make it easy for many to forget that it’s essentially a brand new industry still in its fledgling stages of development in the United States.

Image: IMAGO / Larry MacDougal

With the U.S. Supreme Court repealing the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in 2018, the most experience a state could have with legitimized sports betting on U.S. soil is a little under six years. Most states have much less, if any at all.

As such, the industry is still growing and running into unexpected issues that would have been impossible to foresee before the overturning of PASPA. In Arizona, one of those unprecedented snags has risen with the sale of the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes to an ownership group located in Utah.

Arizona Coyotes Sold to Ownership Group in Utah

For several reasons, this deal will go down in American sports and gambling history. Firstly, the details of the sale are incredibly uncommon. Rather than purchasing the entire team and all of its affiliations, Ryan and Ashley Smith shelled out $1.2 billion for essentially just the actual team, leaving the Coyote IP, its historical records, and its AHL affiliate, the Tucson Roadrunners with former owner Alex Meruelo.

While his players and organization have been transferred, Meruelo still has claim to the Coyotes. One of the stipulations of the deal gives Meruelo the opportunity to revive his franchise in the next five years if he meets certain criteria, such as the designation of a new arena.

Currently, NHL officials have the Coyotes listed as an official team still, although Arizona has now been marked as “inactive.” Meruelo has already gone on record with his intentions to bring the Coyotes back within that five year grace period.

Meruelo to Retain Coyotes’ Gambling License

Beyond just the actual sale of the team, the Coyotes’ gambling license further complicates the deal. Along with the team’s IP and other properties, Meruelo will also retain the license that was granted to all professional Arizona sports franchises back in 2022. Although ownership of the franchise has shifted to Utah, there are several reasons why Meruelo could keep his license moving forward.

Firstly, there are no specific laws detailing what would happen to the gambling licenses granted to a team if they were to move out of state in Arizona or even cease to exist. The Coyotes’ limbo status as an inactive NHL team would also make it difficult to legally strip Meruelo of his license. As Meruelo still owns the Tucson Roadrunners, he retains ownership of a team competing at the highest level of its respective sport.

Now that the Coyotes are moving to Utah, Arizona no longer has an NHL team, meaning that the AHL’s Roadrunners would be the premier hockey team in the state. That would give them legal claim as a professional sports team under Arizona’s gaming laws, giving Meruelo and the Roadrunners precedence to keep the gambling license.

The Coyotes are slated to debut in their new home state of Utah in the 2024-25 season. The league, Arizona sportsbooks, and the governing bodies of the involved states will have to move quickly if they’re to defuse this explosive situation.

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