Arizona Downs Plans to Resume Horse Racing Next Weekend After Landing New Investor

Posted on: July 11, 2019, 09:32h. 

Last updated on: July 11, 2019, 09:32h.

Less than two weeks after Arizona Downs owners announced they would end their initial meet early, the Prescott Valley is ready to get back to racing.

Arizona Downs plans to resume racing on July 20 after securing funding from a new investor. Concerns over a new off-track betting law and a possible lawsuit over it prompted track officials to shut down racing at the northern Arizona track last month. (Image: Arizona Downs)

Track officials plan to resume thoroughbred racing on July 20, with racing taking place every weekend through Labor Day. On Thursday, the Arizona Racing Commission will review the Downs request to amend its racing dates.

On June 21, Arizona Downs revealed it would run one more weekend then shut down for the remainder of its meet. At the time, the track’s lender was unwilling to release additional funds, citing concerns about the future of simulcasting signals in the state.

Since then, the track has found a new investor, which led to the reversal.

The investment group loves horse racing and understands how important a year-round circuit is for the industry,” said Arizona Downs Owner and Partner Tom Auther. “They will be incredible business partners.”

Auther and his group purchased the former Yavapai Downs in northern Arizona last year and renovated the track. It started simulcasting and created an off-track betting network last year, and live racing began on Memorial Day.

Track officials did not disclose the identity of the new investor nor the amount secured.

New OTB Law May Face Challenge

The issue regarding the simulcasting signal stems from a new law Gov. Doug Ducey signed last month that requires simulcasting networks to provide the same feeds to all tracks and OTB parlors. Turf Paradise, a race track in Phoenix, has raised objections with the new law and said Monarch Content Management may pull its signal as a result. The possibility of a lawsuit to challenge the law also exists.

Monarch currently provides Turf Paradise OTBs with feeds from 15 tracks, including Santa Anita, Del Mar, Gulfstream, and Laurel Park. Monarch does provide Arizona Downs a feed for its in-track simulcasting room but not its OTBs.

Revenues generated through off-track betting help tracks generate more money to bolster purses. Higher purses typically attract better horses and larger fields, which provide more options for bettors.

Turf Paradise has a network of 59 OTB parlors statewide. Arizona Downs has just six. However, Auther hopes that will grow soon thanks to the new investment the track received. It will open funds to sign Arizona bars and restaurants to the network. The money generated will fuel purses for next year’s summer meet.

“We’re already having conversations with several potential OTB partners,” said Auther.

Year-Round Racing Important

Turf Paradise is set to run 138 live racing days, with its next meet starting on Oct. 12 and continuing to May 3, 2020.

When Arizona Downs opened for live racing this past May, it marked the first time in nearly a decade the track hosted racing. Horsemen in the state said they were thankful because it gave the state live racing throughout the year.

“Additional permitted live horse racing in Arizona provides increased economic opportunities for Arizona’s racing industry (jobs and business for suppliers) and for tourism in the state,” Caroline Oppelman, the public information officer for the Arizona Gaming Commission told in an email.