Could legalized sports betting solve Arizona teacher pay?

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(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling soon that could overturn the federal ban on sports gambling, and some state lawmakers say it could be just the ticket for Arizona’s teacher pay problem.

The Supreme Court’s ruling could allow individual states to decide if fans should be allowed to wager on games. The case is over the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, which exempted Nevada and three other states that already had laws on the books.

[INFOGRAPHIC: How AZ teacher pay compares to other states]

Some states are already working on legislation to legalize sports betting in anticipation of the high court’s ruling.

“I think I could safely speculate it's in the hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue it could produce for the state,” said Vincent Francia, general manager of Turf Paradise.

Early estimates suggest the 20 percent pay raise demanded by teachers could cost the state more than $600 million per year. Francia doesn't think sports gambling could produce quite that much, but said it would be a significant start.

[RELATED: Teachers demand Gov. Ducey roll back corporate tax cuts]

“Here is something being offered, almost falling into the laps of the state, and it at least deserves to have a good look,” he said.

Francia said between the track and the Indian casinos, the regulatory apparatus is already in place – along with the infrastructure. Turf Paradise operates 60 off-site betting facilities throughout the state, he said.

He said Arizona should tap into the billions of dollars of unregulated bets placed each year.

[RELATED: AZ teachers considering strike if school walk-ins don't prompt change in pay]

“What is wrong with the state getting a cut of that revenue for all the many things the state has to tend to?” Francia asked. 

State Senator Sonny Borrelli (R-Lake Havasu) said he would support legalized sports gambling, pending the Supreme Court’s ruling.

“We're sending all of our money to other states right now on sports betting,” he said in an interview.

Borrelli said he was also in favor of earmarking a significant portion of the funds for teacher salaries.

[RELATED: Arizona teachers demand 20 percent raises during statewide protests]

State Senator John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills) said he would “probably” support a measure to legalize sports gambling, but said he would “need more info and constituent input.” House Speaker J.D. Mesnard said he hadn’t yet formed a position on the topic.

State Senator Dave Farnsworth (R-Mesa) is strongly opposed.

“We have so many things eroding families in Arizona and the very moral character of our society that more gambling is the last thing we need,” he said.

Farnsworth admitted, however, the odds were on the side of gamblers.

“If the courts decide it's acceptable, I think the odds are very high it might get passed,” he said. “I don't think I would have the influence to stop it.”

Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, a gaming research firm, estimates Arizona could be one of 32 states to legalize sports gaming within five years of the court’s ruling.

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Derek StaahlDerek Staahl is an Emmy Award-winning reporter and fill-in anchor who loves covering stories that matter most to Arizona families.

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Derek Staahl

This once-uncompromising "California guy" got his first taste of Arizona in 2015 while covering spring training baseball for his former station. The trip spanned just three days, but Derek quickly decided Phoenix should be his next address. He joined CBS 5 and 3TV four months later, in August 2015. Before packing his bags for the Valley of the Sun, Derek spent nearly four years at XETV in San Diego, where he was promoted to Weekend Anchor and Investigative Reporter. Derek chaired the Saturday and Sunday 10 p.m. newscasts, which regularly earned the station's highest ratings for a news program each week. Derek’s investigative reporting efforts into the Mayor Bob Filner scandal in 2013 sparked a "governance crisis" for the city of San Diego and was profiled by the region’s top newspaper. Derek broke into the news business at WKOW-TV in Madison, WI. He wrote, shot, edited, and presented stories during the week, and produced newscasts on the weekends. By the end of his stint, he was promoted to part-time anchor on WKOW’s sister station, WMSN. Derek was born in Los Angeles and was named the “Undergraduate Broadcast Journalism Student of the Year” in his graduating class at USC. He also played quads in the school’s famous drumline. When not reporting the news, Derek enjoys playing drumset, sand volleyball, and baseball.

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