The Coyotes are finally in the sports betting game. 

The team and Meruelo Gaming LLC, an affiliate of the SAHARA Las Vegas and Grand Sierra Resort in Reno, Nevada, announced on Wednesday the launch of SaharaBets, a digital sports betting platform available for download on Jan. 12.

The announcement ends months of speculation on what the Coyotes would do after Gov. Doug Ducey signed sports betting into law in April, with a launch date of Sept. 9. 

The Arizona Department of Gaming licensed 10 Arizona Indian tribes and eight pro sports entities to offer sports wagering. 

The Suns and FanDuel Group announced a multi-year partnership in April. The Diamondbacks announced a 10-year partnership with Caesars to open a sportsbook just outside of Chase Field in May. In June, the Mercury and Bally’s Corporation announced a 15-year partnership, and the Cardinals announced a partnership with BetMGM in August. 

TPC Scottsdale (DraftKings), Phoenix Speedway (Penn National Gaming Inc.), and the Rattlers (Rush Street Interactive) also announced partnerships, but the Coyotes were mum on their plans with their arena situation still in flux.

“It was just a business decision at the end of the day,” SaharaBets President Andrew Patterson said. “It was about analyzing where the market is, what’s going on in the market, and what the opportunities are.

“The Coyotes are at the forefront of engaging their customers in unique ways and this was a business decision that was made to extend that to sports betting and to the digital gaming space, and to bring Coyotes fans to the Sahara Las Vegas or the Grand Sierra Resort, where maybe they didn’t know about them before.”

Patterson said SaharaBets will roll out more detailed plans in the coming days before the launch, but the uniqueness of the product, he said, can be found in its local focus.

“We’re looking to expand our partnerships with other entities within the state, but we are solely focused on the state of Arizona, so the Arizona sports fan is going to be immersed in a different way with the app and with the experience than they would get from a national operator,” Patterson said. “They all do it extremely well and they all do it in different ways, but we are focused on the state of Arizona.

“When you look at all the events that happen within the state of Arizona, whether it’s sports or concerts, we’ll look to offer experiences that are outside of what a normal fan can do, or outside of, ‘here’s some free bets.’ It will be experience based. Maybe it’s going to meet-and-greets with players, or it’s suite access to Coyotes games or concerts. We are looking at other partners within the state of Arizona so it could be giveaways to their brands as well.”

While other Valley teams have partnered with national operators, it was expected that Meruelo would keep this opportunity in house. With two aforementioned casinos already under his ownership, Meruelo knows this space well and is viewed in league circles as a potential pioneer for new revenue streams for NHL teams and the league. 

Patterson said the focus for now is on the digital sports betting app and desktop site, but in the long term, he said SaharaBets would likely venture into retail. With the Coyotes arena situation still unknown, the team may wait on the latter until they secure a permanent home, but it should be noted that in the plans for the team’s proposed Tempe arena and entertainment district, there is a physical space that would house a sportsbook.

“The Coyotes are dedicated to providing innovative and entertaining experiences for our great fans,” Coyotes President and CEO Xavier A. Gutierrez said in a news release. “Our partnership with SaharaBets will offer next-level gaming experiences for fans who want to unleash their competitive spirit.”

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  • This to me again signals commitment to AZ. There is a longer term and broader strategy than just owning a hockey team.

  • I won 250 bucks on a two dollar bet on a horse named “ don’tsteponmytoes” at Churchill Downs hours after the Derby Mini Marathon. I can remember having intense runners high at the paddock area, standing next to this big guy smoking a cigar going over his tip sheet. Cigar smoke smells so good when you got runners high.
    Then at the track in Evansville I saw two horses die in one day. One tried to keep running after he broke his leg! I never went to the track again.
    If this gambling stuff keeps the team here, I’m all for it though.

  • This article should be required reading for all the Canadian sports journalists predicting Coyotes moves to Quebec, Houston, etc.

  • I wonder how this will impact fan engagement. I’ve seen people get really invested in teams or specific matchups due to fantasy leagues. I’d have to imagine this may drive fans of sports betting to get more invested in the Coyotes. Perhaps even moreso when we’re actually winning games.

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