Despite the support from Arizona Downs, not all race tracks are in favor of the bill. Turf Paradise, which has a virtual monopoly on the OTB network, is asking Governor Doug Ducey to veto the bill.
HB 2547 passed on May 24, with an 18-11 vote in the Arizona Senate and a 39-20 vote in the House, enjoying rare across-the-aisles support. If the Governor signs HB 2547 into law, then Arizona Downs will be able to receive the same OTB content as Turf Paradise for a reasonable price.
Kell Palguta, who also serves as Mayor of Prescott Valley supports the measure, noting that it will help the community move into the future by creating, “…an opportunity for the citizens of Prescott Valley to make their voices heard about economic growth."
Bob Walker, the former owner of Turf Paradise, gave a statement to the legislature noting that at the time he sold the track in 2000, it had more than 55 OTBs and more than 900 out-of-state locales.
“Back then racing in Arizona was thriving, and a critical component of that success was having year round racing and an equitable OTB network,” Walker said. "When Yavapai Downs went bankrupt it made a major impact on Arizona, forcing horsemen to leave the state they call home to race the summer months in Minnesota, Iowa and even Canada. Today things are looking bright for racing in Arizona. With new owners, and a completely remodeled track in Prescott Valley we once again have the chance for year round racing with Arizona Downs.”
According to Walker, HB 2547 is the best chance to breathe life back into racing in Arizona.
Joe Longo, Director of Simulcasting for the New York Racing Association indicated that he hopes the measure is put into law. Longo said that Arizona has been behind in equalizing the ability to obtain OTB content.
“Other states across the country have ensured a level playing field by requiring that all licensees have access to any and all content available. However, in Arizona, that is not the case. Content restriction hurts not only the horsemen in the state of Arizona, but also affects the horsemen in other states responsible for putting on the racing performance. When their signal is withheld, they do not earn their share of purse money generated through the wagering taking place across the nation. In order for this industry to thrive, we need laws in place that create a legal framework that is appropriate and prevents monopolistic situations, like Arizona currently faces,” Longo, a former employee of Rillito Park Race Track in Tucson, stated in a memo to the Legislature.
Other supporters of HB 2547 include:
Twice Triple Crown winner and trainer Bob Baffert, who started his racing career in Prescott
Prescott Valley Chamber CEO Marnie Uhl
Palguta said he hopes local residents contact Governor Ducey’s staff to express their support for HB2547 to help Arizona Downs continue to grow and thrive.
HB 2547 was transmitted to Governor Doug Ducey on May 27 and is awaiting his signature. You can read HB2547 here.
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