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Ex-Arizona Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo is not only keeping the name, intellectual property, and minor league affiliate in Arizona, but also the team’s sports betting license as well, according to Sportico’s Eben Novy-Williams

Arizona Coyotes’ sports betting license remains active, according to the Arizona Department of Gaming

In 2022, Arizona granted licenses to each of its professional sports teams, allowing the franchises to sell to sports betting operators for business within the Grand Canyon State. 

The Coyotes partnered with Meruelo’s gambling company to launch SaharaBets, which the team used to participate in sports betting in the state.

According to the Arizona Department of Gaming, the license is still active. The state agency declined to comment on whether that might change in the future now that the team’s roster and hockey operations have been sold to NBA’s Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith and Smith Entertainment Group (SEG). 

Novy-Williams listed two potential reasons why the team could retain the license: First, the Coyotes are still an NHL team even if now inactive and second, Meruelo is still the owner of the AHL’s Roadrunners in Tucson.

A representative for Meruelo declined to comment.

As for the official sale, Ryan and Ashley Smith agreed to pay $1.2 billion for just those Coyotes assets, leaving Meruelo with the AHL franchise, team IP, and its NHL records.

While the Coyotes are now inactive, Meruelo has the option to reinstate his NHL team so that it will rejoin the league within the next five years. 

However, one important obstacle stands in the way of that happening: a new arena. The Coyotes began using Arizona State University’s Mullet Arena in 2022. It provided only a temporary solution. 

Coyotes must find a new arena by 2029 if Alex Meruelo decides to reactivate his NHL team

Following the conclusion of the 2023-24 season, a proposal for a new arena in Tempe was rejected by the residents of the city in May 2023. If the team manages to secure a new arena by 2029, it will be allowed to rejoin the NHL. 

“Everybody wants to play in Arizona. I think we’ve left an incredible team and Utah should consider itself extremely lucky,” Meruelo told the Arizona Republic. “They have a great group of players with great potential. Can you imagine us with a brand new arena in the state of Arizona? It would be unbelievable. 

“Plus, the new arena means more ticket revenue, which allows us to have more money, right? We would get the best coaches, the best players, there’s been a couple players that have already said that the day they build the arena, I’m coming back.”

Meruelo could still bring the team back within that five-year window. He plans to “reactivate it” in the future. 

“To me, it stands clear that the Coyotes love their team, and they want the team back,” Meruelo added. 

“I’ve kept the team, except moving hockey operations to Utah. So, it was just more confirmation of how much this sport is loved in Arizona, and my intent is to reactivate it and move forward.”

The Arizona state gaming laws exclude any language covering the event of a professional sports team relocating from the state, per Eben Novy-Williams

It should be noted that the law defines “professional sports teams” as those competing “at the highest level league or organizational play for its respective sport.” 

If the Coyotes are inactive, Meruelo could argue that the Roadrunners are now the highest level of professional hockey in the state.

In other words, it makes sense to retain the sports betting license.