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NHL deal means owner of inactive Arizona Coyotes can keep state sportsbook license

The National Hockey League is still calling Alex Meruelo an owner while the clock ticks on his deadline to reactivate the Arizona Coyotes.

Holding the title despite players having been sent to Utah means Meruelo can also still make money from sports gambling in Arizona. Professional sports team owners are the first group mentioned in state law listing those eligible to hold a sportsbook license.

Meruelo’s gambling interest is unique because his Coyotes partner with an operator he also owns.

State records show that in roughly two years, SaharaBets handled around $7.6 million in wagers and paid roughly $48,000 in state taxes.

The NHL has given Meruelo five years to build a new arena and reactivate the Coyotes.

Meruelo said the first step is winning a state land auction in June.

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Matthew Casey has won Edward R. Murrow awards for hard news and sports reporting since he joined KJZZ as a senior field correspondent in 2015.