Turf Paradise Still in Pursuit of Arizona Betting License

Turf Paradise Still in Pursuit of Arizona Betting License

Phoenix’s Turf Paradise Racing is evaluating its Arizona sports betting options after an appeals court denied the horse racing company’s petition to gain a license in late October.

The horse racing track filed its original complaint in Maricopa County Superior Court in late August after it was denied a license by the Arizona Department of Gaming when the original list of 18 licensees was announced.

This week, the ADG opened applications for limited event wagering operator licenses, meant for race tracks and off-track betting locations. Turf Paradise says it will apply for a limited license, but still has hopes of offering fully-licensed Arizona sports betting apps.

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Where Turf Paradise Goes from Here

Turf Paradise Racing General Manager Vincent Francia told BetArizona.com the company plans on exhausting its legal recourse.

Turf Paradise’s initial legal effort was denied by Judge James Smith in September. He said the court lacked authority to override the ADG. An appeal was denied by the Arizona Court of Appeals, which declined to accept jurisdiction over the petition.

Turf Paradise also appealed the ADG’s decision through the Arizona Office of Administrative Hearings. A representative from the ADG told BetArizona.com via email Wednesday that an administrative law judge at OAH upheld the department’s decision to deny Turf Paradise a full license.

ADG director Ted Vogt completed the OAH appeal by issuing “a final Department decision maintaining that decision to deny licensure.”

“Through the OAH process, TP racing has not prevailed on their requests for relief,” the Department of Gaming said via email.

Francia said Turf Paradise is preparing paperwork to submit additional appeals and that its legal complaint is active.

“The matter of course is in the hands of the court, regarding how they might adjudicate or decide the issue,” Francia said. “And depending on what the court issues; we’ll have to adjust accordingly.”

For now, Francia said Turf Paradise’s plan is to apply for one of the 10 limited event wagering operator’s licenses.

The limited licenses allow race track enclosures that hold Arizona Department of Racing permits to offer in-person sports betting so long as they’re at least five miles from tribal gaming, an event wagering facility, or a fellow limited event wagering operator.

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Importance of a License for Turf Paradise

Francia said Turf Paradise looks forward to having the opportunity to provide wagering opportunities on a limited basis but contended the company still has its sights set on achieving a full license in the state.

“It gives us the opportunity to get our feet wet with sports betting,” Francia said. “But I wish to preface before that that we are still pursuing via court to be in the first group that has been allowed sports betting. We haven’t given up on that yet.”

A major reason why Turf Paradise wants to receive a full sports betting license, according to Francia, is the ability to attract additional pari-mutuel and horse racing bettors to the Phoenix facility.

“When we look at the whole idea of sports betting and being a pari-mutuel facility, it is a very nice way to form the two forms of sports betting,” he said. “The mindset of the gamblers is very different — the way you approach betting on a horse race from the way you’d look at an Alabama-New Mexico State football game and the spread in that game, which is entirely different from the world of pari-mutuel betting.

“But what they both have in common is they’re both wagering events. So, for us, it’s an exciting time. What we see is a crossover. And by that, I mean, if we were dealing with slot players and horse racing players, the crossover effect may not be able to be measured, because they’re two very different ways to approach wagering. Whereas, with sports betting and pari-mutuel wagering that’s not the case, because horse racing is a sport.”



Christopher Boan is the lead writer at BetArizona.com after covering sports and sports betting in Arizona for more than seven years, including stops at ArizonaSports.com, the Tucson Weekly and the Green Valley News.

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