The Phoenix Suns will be among the first NBA teams with a sportsbook in their arena, part of a wider agreement with FanDuel that will also give the gambling operator the ability to take bets across the state of Arizona.
The deal was announced shortly after Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed a new law making Arizona the 27th state to legalize sports betting. The legislation makes sports teams and their venues (as well as local tribes) the gatekeepers to state licenses. As such, FanDuel’s partnership with the Suns is simultaneously a sponsorship, a sportsbook partnership and a market access agreement.
For the Suns, the partnership is an opportunity to engage fans in an industry that was not previously available legally. That includes daily fantasy games—until now, Arizona was one of the few states that prohibited DFS.
“We are well aware of the variety of areas where people spend their time, and their money, particularly in the entertainment world,” Suns president and CEO Jason Rowley said in an interview. “This is opening an entire world of new possibilities for our fans, whether it’s inside the arena watching the game, whether it’s in the sportsbook once it’s built out, or whether it’s watching the game at home.”
Rowley described the deal, which is subject to regulatory approval, as a “long-term partnership.” He declined to comment on financial terms.
The retail sportsbook at Phoenix Suns Arena, which is in the middle of a $250 million renovation, is expected to open later this year. Like in-venue locations currently being built in a handful of other pro arenas and stadiums, the FanDuel outpost will be open even when the Suns aren’t playing, thereby attracting business year-round.
Though mobile sports betting is both more popular and generally more convenient for most bettors, operators believe retail locations, especially those inside a sports venue, create a more engaging experience for casual gamblers. FanDuel already operates 16 retail sportsbooks, including the popular Meadowlands Racetrack location in New Jersey, next to the home of the New York Giants and Jets.
These sportsbook partnerships also highlight a difference between sports betting deals and more standard sponsorships, which often focus mainly on advertising.
“For our auto partner, we actually do have a few cars in the arena that we’re selling,” Rowley said. “But for many partners, their specific product isn’t always deployed in the arena, as FanDuel’s will be.”
Thursday’s announcement comes one day after DraftKings said it would build a sportsbook at TPC Scottsdale as part of a wider Arizona access agreement with the PGA Tour. There will be more in the coming weeks, as each new legal market triggers a state-wide land grab for licenses and new customers.
That’s even more true in Arizona because the new bill also legalizes daily fantasy sports, which isn’t currently offered in the state. FanDuel typically has a DFS customer base it can lean on when it launches betting in a state; in Arizona it is entering with a blank slate.
FanDuel is owned by Flutter Entertainment, a gambling company whose other brands include Paddy Power, Betfair, Sky Bet, PokerStars and Fox Bet. FanDuel is the most popular mobile sportsbook in the U.S., with 33.6% of the market, according to recent numbers from research firm Eilers & Krejcik.