Thursday, February 4, 2010

HANA/Arizona Stakeholder Meetings - Is Online Wagering For Arizona Horseplayers a Step Closer to Reality?

On September 19th 2007, Arizona House Bill 2694 became state law. This bill "made any individual outside of a licensed racetrack or off-track betting facility that accepts a wager or bets on the results of a race is guilty of a class six felony, which can bring imprisonment." Immediately, ADW's like Youbet pulled out of Arizona, and horseplayers could no longer enjoy the sport of horse racing over the internet. Arizona racing fans were understandably upset, and they spoke with their dollars.

Two and a half years later, we are happy to report this might be changing.

On Monday January 25, 2010 the Arizona Department of Racing held a meeting termed an Internal Industry Discussion Forum. Present at this meeting were representatives from Yavapai Downs, Turf Paradise, The Arizona HBPA, The Arizona Racing Commission, The Arizona Department of Racing, The Arizona Attorney General's Office, and several members of the Horseplayers Association of North America, led by President Jeff Platt. HANA had first met with Arizona stakeholders in August of 2009 to present the idea of agency wagering as an alternative to the present lockout, and this was our third such meeting.

The meeting was held at the request of Yavapai Downs General Manager Gary Spiker and Director of Racing Greg "Boomer" Wry. The purpose of the meeting was to allow representatives from Yavapai Downs to present a proposal to the Department for Agency Wagering and to allow for questions and comments from various interested parties among Arizona's Racing Industry.

Agency Wagering is very similar to Account Deposit Wagering - the key difference being that under the proposal Yavapai Downs would be acting as the agent as opposed to an outside vendor. If adopted, the proposal would allow Arizona's tracks and horsemen to operate their own ADW and retain a revenue share similar to what they retain when wagers are made at a track or otb. Players who are currently shut out because of Arizona's ADW Law would have a way to wager on races over the internet.

HANA representatives spoke up in favor of the proposal, not because we think it represents the ideal model (it doesn't) - but because we see it as a complete reversal from the thought process that led to creation of Arizona's ADW Law making it a felony for players to wager on races online or by telephone.

The proposal appears to have the support of Yavapai Downs, The Arizona HBPA, The Arizona Department of Racing, and Arizona players, but not the support of Turf Paradise.

The proposal is still in its infancy and faces significant hurdles before it can be enacted. Arizona's ADW Law states that wagers can only be accepted if they are made "within the racing enclosure"; the implication being that wagers made outside the racing enclosure constitute criminal activity.

The Arizona Attorney General's Office will need to examine the proposal and decide whether or not wagers submitted over the internet to equipment located at Yavapai Downs owned by Arizona's Tracks and Horsemen would in fact be wagers made "within the racing enclosure." If a favorable ruling is given, then look for the proposal to move forward.

The Arizona Attorney General's Office will also need to examine the proposal in light of the Indian Gaming Compacts between the State of Arizona and Arizona's many Indian Tribes. The Compacts give the Tribes exclusive rights to "Expansion of Class III Gaming" within the State Of Arizona. If Yavapai's proposal for Agency Wagering is determined to be "Expansion of Class III Gaming" as defined in the Tribal Gaming Compacts, "poison pill" provisions in the Compacts provide for significant reductions in annual revenue paid by the Tribes to the State of Arizona along with unlimited "Expansion of Class III Gaming" on the part of the tribes. The political climate in Arizona remains conservative. Nobody holding a public office in Arizona wants to be known as the one who allowed the Tribes to trigger the "poison pill" clauses in their compacts.

Despite these and possibly other hurdles - we expect Yavapai's proposal for Agency Wagering to be submitted to the Arizona Attorney General's Office for review sometime in the very near future.

No matter what the outcome of the opinion handed down by the State Attorney General's Office, at least one track in Arizona, Yavapai Downs, is making an effort to reach out to players. HANA sees this as a player friendly first step -- hopefully the first of many to come.

We have had continual discussions with Yavapai and we hope to make further announcements as those steps are taken.


John said...

Excellent write-up! Anyone that glanced at the "teaser" should read the entire link, particularly the distinction that Turf Paradise is rather unsupportive of this endeavour. I, for one, appreciate the disassociation of Yavapai from Turf Paradise, as opposed to the traditional lumping of the two tracks together as though their goals and objectives were identical.

I must thank Jeff Platt for driving clear to downtown Phoenix to represent the customers. He did a fantastic job and he was heard by horsemen that were in attendance. In an unrelated meeting, one attendee referenced Jeff specifically, recognizing him as the 'face' of a customer - a monumental moment of awareness from my seat.

I can't possibly neglect to acknowledge the amazing effort by Chip to attend the meeting, driving hours in the midst of a chaotic day to lend his perspective in support of both the venture and the horseplayers. No kidding - the Commission meeting was in a virtual pause waiting for his arrival - so his words were given tremendous weight and like Jeff, Chip's sentiments were echoed in subsequent meetings by horsemen that were enlightened by the presence of a customer.

Of course - kudos to Boomer - someone lost their mind and put him in charge of things and in a matter of a few months, he's managed to completely reverse the course of Yavapai and head it in distinctly the right direction. I can say this with all sincerety - I don't toe any company lines or say things to protect my stake in anything - I speak honestly -- I would much rather be training horses, hustling book, or something other than what I am doing -- but I am so utterly proud of Boomer's efforts on a number of fronts to take our meager little track and at least try to be the shining example in the State of how to manage and operate a race track -- that I feel compelled to remain aboard the ship and help out, lending my support vocally in the company of those that know me well, and are distinctly aware of my penchant for blunt, honest opinion.

I was thrilled to see that Jeff took the time to pen such a wonderful entry in his blog and while I recognize that Yavapai will never be to players what Saratoga is - my hope is that at least they can also discern it clearly from tracks like Turf Paradise and recognize that there is a distinct effort being advanced on their behalf and ultimately, to the benefit of the larger industry in the State.

Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Interesting!! But why is it such a secret? Is there a reason?

Anonymous said...

Has there been any update to these discussions? Thanks. Dave in Phoenix

Anonymous said...

Why is nothing being done to repeal the stupid HR 2694 Bill?

Is it even valid today?

Who among are legislators are being paid off by the Indian Casino's?

Let's vote out these politions that have their own agenda.

Anonymous said...

As an OTB owner I must share that the tracks do not give a dime to the OTB's for anything! If there was compensation we would be able to reach out to customers for the the tracks. They are wasting energy on the wrong effort

Anonymous said...

Az is still a shitkickin town plain and simple. Good luck keeping the internet generation(18-40) interested.They come out on derby day once a year.