By T. D. Thornton
Three days into a state-mandated simulcast standoff that has resulted in Arizona horseplayers being unable to wager on signals distributed by a subsidiary of The Stronach Group (TSG), management at Turf Paradise issued a press release to try and quell rumors that the track would be closing because of its inability to accept wagers on popular winter tracks.
“Turf Paradise is not going out of business. The Phoenix-based track…is not closing its doors,” stated the first line of an update posted on the track’s website signed by Turf Paradise general manager Vincent Francia.
“We wish to dispel any concerns you might have or rumors you may have heard, because effective Saturday, Jan. 25, Turf Paradise was ordered to stop offering simulcast wagering on Santa Anita, Gulfstream Park, Golden Gate, etc…” Francia wrote.
At issue is a long-simmering dispute between TSG’s Monarch Content Management, LLC, and the Arizona Department of Gaming over whether a relatively new state law or the federal Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978 should take precedence. Monarch has initiated a federal lawsuit over the dispute.
The Turf Paradise press release explained the issue from the track’s perspective:
“At a Racing Commission meeting on Friday, Jan. 24, a motion was made and passed by three of the Arizona Racing Commissioners that the law (HB 2547) would have to be followed by the three race tracks in the state, Turf Paradise, Arizona Downs and Rillito Park. What HB 2547 basically says is that, all simulcast providers sending their races into Arizona have to offer their race products to all tracks and all their Off Track Betting parlors (OTB) equally. In other words, what is offered to one must be offered to all. The constitutionality of HB 2547 is being litigated in the courts right now.
“The Monarch Corporation, owned by [TSG], provides race signals to the three Arizona race tracks. Signals like Santa Anita, Gulfstream Park, Laurel Park, Tampa Bay, to name a few. Monarch also sends its race signals to Turf Paradise’s 60 OTB locations. However, Monarch and Arizona Downs are currently in a contract dispute and Monarch does not send its race products to the one Arizona Downs OTB that is still in operation. Monarch has its own reasons for this decision. Among those reasons is that having competing OTB networks in the same state only results in both of them failing.
“Thus the Racing Commission ruled that Monarch was in violation of HB 2547, despite the fact that the constitutionality is currently being litigated in the courts, and that Turf Paradise and the other two race tracks had to cease immediately accepting wagers on race tracks from Monarch. Turf Paradise is doing everything it can as fast as it can to help get this matter corrected.”
A notice posted on the Arizona Department of Gaming website stated that “The Commission’s decision only affects the Monarch simulcast signal. All other approved simulcast signals and associated wagering in Arizona remain unaffected and will continue uninterrupted. The Commission’s action to disapprove the Monarch signal remains in effect until the Commission receives, reviews and approves simulcast agreements in accordance with Arizona’s new law.”