Sugar Skulls may get sports betting license

KOLD News 6-6:30 p.m. recurring
Published: Jan. 25, 2022 at 7:45 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - When the state made a big hoopla last April about passing a law, signed by the governor giving the tribes and professional sport teams the right to open a sports book, there was cheering all around.

“This represents the most significant changes in almost two decades,” said Gov. Doug Ducey, talking about changing the compacts which allowed Arizona’s Indian tribes to open casinos. “A truly historic event.”

It allows the tribes ten licenses to open sports books and ten licenses for sporting franchises, including the Phoenix Suns, Arizona Cardinals, Diamondbacks, the PGA and NASCAR, which have all show interest.

But there was a gaping hole.

No professional sports team in Southern Arizona could qualify because they could not meet the attendance criteria.

House Bill 2772, which was passed by bipartisan support, required any sports venue that wanted to open a sports book, to have a seating capacity of a minimum 10,000.

The Tucson Sugar Skulls, an indoor professional football franchise, plays in the TCC and is the only team in Southern Arizona which could qualify as a pro sports team. It wants a sports book, which can be lucrative.

But Tucson’s TCC arena seats 9,275, a few hundred short.

But the City of Tucson, which owns the TCC, solved the problem by opening a couple of exhibition halls to bring the seating capacity to well more than 10,000.

Still it was a change in the lease terms which had to be approved by the Rio Nuevo Board, which it did unanimously.

“The only such team eligible for that in Tucson is of course, the Sugar Skulls,” said Rio Nuevo Board Chair Fletcher McCusker. “The Roadrunners are a minor league team, the Sugar Skulls are a major league team.”

Still, the Sugar Skulls must still apply for a license which they have given every indication they will as soon as possible.

“They also indicated their desire to develop a physical location that would have to be within six blocks of the arena proper,” McCusker said.

“Under the change in lease terms, the team has agreed to donate at least 300 tickets per game to disadvantaged children, it is required to fund scholarships for high school and college athletes, and pay more for rent of the TCC.

With everything in place and approved, the next step would be state approval of the license. No word yet when that might come.

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