Turf Paradise to Shut Down Operations in October

Turf Paradise to Shut Down Operations in October
Fact Checked by Michael Peters

One of the cornerstone venues for Arizona sports betting is set to close its doors for good next month, throwing the state’s horse racing scene into the unknown.

Phoenix’s Turf Paradise racetrack will no longer hold race events or simulcasting beginning Oct. 1, after longtime course owner Jerry Simms chose to retire from the business. What the move means for the 37 off-track betting facilities that partnered with the Phoenix track is unknown. Vincent Francia, who serves as the general manager of Turf Paradise, told BetArizona.com the closure, while bittersweet, is not the final chapter for Arizona horse racing.

“Turf Paradise has been here for 67 years, and I would say that it’s a time of transition for Arizona horse racing,” Francia told BetArizona.com. “It’s not going to disappear. But groups that are very invested in this are going to have to get together and come up with other ideas so that it can go forward into the future.”

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Track Had Limited Success With Event Wagering

Turf Paradise received a limited event wagering license from the Arizona Department of Gaming in 2022 after failing to receive a full Arizona betting apps license when the market opened in 2021. The track’s legal actions to receive a full license were also denied.

The limited licenses for Turf Paradise, Arizona Downs of Prescott Valley and eight off track betting locations partnered with Turf Paradise allow for only retail sports betting. Turf Paradise partnered with Unibet Arizona to create a retail space at the track.

For June, the last month wagering data is available from the ADG, Turf Paradise did $274,430 in handle. And it’s $42,426 in adjusted gross event wagering receipts were more than eight of 17 mobile operators had in the month. It was also more than the three retail locations operated by the state’s major professional franchises — BetMGM Arizona at State Farm Stadium; Caesars Arizona at Chase Field; and FanDuel Arizona at the Footprint Center.

What’s Next For Turf Paradise?

Multiple media outlets have reported the planned sale of the 252-acre horse racing facility to a California company called CT Realty fell through, forcing Simms’ decision to close. Francia said multiple parties remain interested in buying the Phoenix track and the facility is still on the market — whether to continue in its current form or for redevelopment.

“The announcement that Turf Paradise is closing certainly brings a chapter to a close,” Francia said. “As we know, when one chapter concludes, another begins and that’s where Arizona racing is right now. It’s the beginning of a new chapter in its development phase.”

The planned closure of Turf Paradise leaves Arizona with two fully sanctioned horse racing tracks in Prescott Valley’s Arizona Downs and Tucson’s Rillito Downs. Francia hopes the Phoenix track’s days aren’t numbered, with the longtime general manager believing a solution can be reached to keep the facility alive.

“Turf Paradise is important,” he said, “It’s been around for nearly 70 years. And it has both dirt and turf courses, which really enhances the product — not only for Arizona horsemen, but it’s also attractive for California horsemen to come over and race also. The fact is that Turf Paradise was Arizona’s first sports franchise, before the Suns or the Diamondbacks and things like that. So it has a lot of history behind it.”



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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