Arizona Racing Legislation Introduced

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Turf Paradise | Coady

Legislation has been introduced in Arizona to modernize gaming at tracks and OTBs in the Grand Canyon State. Senate Bill 1794, introduced by Sen. David Gowan, would authorize historic horse racing [HHR] and stands to generate up to $140 million in new tax revenues. The bill is set to be heard in a Senate committee on Tuesday.

Since 2004, according to savearizonahorseracing.com, Arizona has seen pari-mutuel handles drop by $55 million a year and purses drop by $5 million a year as live racing attendance has dropped 45%. During the same time period, tribal gross gaming revenues have increased from $1.3 billion to $2 billion.

The bill would modernize Arizona wagering laws while limiting the number of HHR terminals to just 15% of tribal gaming positions. Pari-mutuel wagering was legal in Arizona before tribal gaming compacts began, so their authorization would not violate those state agreements.

“The modernization effort led by Senator Gowan will save the horse racing industry in Arizona and help keep horsemen in our state,” said Bob Hutton, president of the Arizona Horseman's Benevolent & Protective Association. “Implementing historic horse racing will provide much-needed support to the various industry partners that are involved in each race day, attract high quality horses, and revitalize the horse racing experience throughout Arizona.”

According to savearizonahorseracing.com, if passed, the measure would generate between $100 million and $140 million in new state tax revenues, create 4,000 new jobs, and lead to more than $300 million in capital investments in Arizona Downs. In addition, daily purses in Arizona would increase from $80,000 to $300,000.

One day after bill 1794 was introduced, a mirror bill in the same committee on the Senate side was held over. Like its House counterpart, SB 1797 would allow for mobile platforms tethered to tribal casinos or professional sports leagues, including the all the major sports, the PGA Tour, and NASCAR. Both bills allow for 10 licenses each for commercial interests and tribes.

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