Arizona bill would allow horse racing track to be licensed for online betting

February 14, 2024 8:25 PM
Photo: Turk Paradise race course in Phoenix. (Turk Paradise photo)
  • Conor Murphy, Special to CDC Gaming Reports
February 14, 2024 8:25 PM
  • Conor Murphy, Special to CDC Gaming Reports

A bill introduced by Rep. David Cook, HB 2732, has proposed allowing the Turf Paradise race course in Phoenix to apply for an online sports betting license.

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The Arizona Department of Gaming denied the racetrack a license in 2021 because it was not a professional sports franchise. The Arizona Department of Gaming reopened licensing of online operators last month, allowing two new operators to launch in the state. Operators can only partner with professional sports franchises or tribes to launch.

The bill would open the process to racetracks and reopen the application process on Feb. 16, with applicants having until March 4 to apply for at least two available online sports betting licenses. This move could provide a lifeline to Arizona’s racing industry, which faced financial challenges and the threat of closure in recent years.

Turf Paradise, the only licensed horse betting operator in the state, has been a cornerstone of Arizona’s horse racing industry for almost 70 years. Despite financial hurdles and a near-sale to a real estate developer that fell through in September, the track’s management and the local horsemen’s association have agreed to race in 2024.

“I decided to postpone my retirement because of the many stakeholders here in Arizona that want racing to continue,” track owner Jerry Simms said in December.

Rep. Cook highlighted the discrepancy in treatment between sports franchises and horse racing tracks.

“They were denied a permit because they were not a franchise. I don’t understand that because we have horse tracks across this country. I think it was inappropriate for (the Arizona Department of Gaming) to deny the horse racing industry from having the same opportunity as the NBA or NFL,” he explained to Legal Sports Report.