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.