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If Arizona OKs new horse racing gambling games, AG says tribes could withhold money

If the Legislature tries to authorize certain gambling devices related to horse racing, Arizona’s attorney general says that tribal communities could withhold money they’d normally owe the state from gambling revenues. 

According to the state’s Tribal-State Gaming Compacts, tribal communities have the exclusive right to run historic horse racing games in Arizona. But lawmakers have introduced legislation over the years that tribal leaders and Navajo Sen. Theresa Hatathlie (D-Coalmine Mesa) say encroaches on that exclusivity.

“Tribal gaming in the state of Arizona is constantly whittled down and to make it open to more private investors, private organizers,” Hatathlie said.

Hatathlie requested a formal opinion on the matter from Attorney General Kris Mayes, who warned in a formal opinion that if the Legislature ever did alter the laws on historic racing games — in violation of the gaming compact — tribes would be empowered to expand their gaming operations and withhold revenue to the state.

Historic horse racing is an electronic gambling method that allows bettors to gamble on the outcome of replayed horse races using machines.

This year, no bills have been introduced that go after historic horse racing in particular. But Hatathlie notes there was on such bill last year, sponsored by Sen. Sonny Borrelli (R-Lake Havasu City).

Camryn Sanchez is a field correspondent at KJZZ covering everything to do with state politics.