The Arizona Daily Star's May 24 editorial defending Tucson Greyhound Park and opposing vital legislation was way off track. I'm disappointed that the newspaper sided with the greyhound park's out-of-state owners without ever contacting any of the three directors of the Pima County Horsemen's Association for input.
I'm president of the association. We're a volunteer group that runs horse races at Rillito Park, a key part of the Southern Arizona community.
The Star's editorial implied that Senate bill 1329 is a David-and-Goliath battle between Tucson Greyhound Park and Turf Paradise in Phoenix. That couldn't be further from the truth.
I personally asked that this bill remove a legislatively imposed "dome" over Pima County so that my organization can get out from under the thumb of the real bully, Tucson Greyhound Park. The "dome" ensures that the dog industry here profits from the statewide horse industry. We're the only place in this country where this kind of government protection exists.
The editorial referred to a 1994 agreement that gives Tucson Greyhound Park the "exclusive right to provide off-track betting on horse racing in Pima County." That is simply untrue and misleading. We alone possess the license that allows horse simulcast signals to come into Pima County.
Since Tucson Greyhound Park was already going to provide simulcast greyhound betting, it only made sense to add horse-racing to their off-track betting parlors. We entered into an agreement with them to share in the profits generated from horse simulcast revenues.
Tucson Greyhound Park keeps 100 percent of the dog-racing simulcast revenue and 80 percent of the proceeds from the horse-racing simulcast revenue. Rillito's share is about $250,000 a year, enough to break even after staging live races for our community. Our board doesn't profit personally. Everything we earn from the simulcasting agreement is reinvested in race purses and operations.
Meanwhile, the dog track takes more than $1 million, which is almost completely pocketed by the track's out-of-state owners.
Both horse racing and greyhound racing are suffering from the growth of casino gambling in this state. The situation is dire and an agreement that might have made sense in 1994 just doesn't work today.
Not to be confused with the 1994 agreement, the "dome" that was created to protect Tucson Greyhound Park from competition cannot continue to exist. Just because the greyhound industry in Pima County has dwindled doesn't mean that horse racing should subsidize it.
Let's return to economic basics. Horse racing is horse racing; dog racing is dog racing.
Our agreement with Tucson Greyhound Park expires Dec. 31. Just because Tucson Greyhound Park got a base on balls for 12 years doesn't mean they should have a lifetime food stamp program.
The horse racing industry in this state is suffering and could die out by 2010. Let our industry prove itself, freeing us from the demands of the "predatory" greyhound owners in Pima County.
The Legislature must pass S.B. 1329, remove the "dome" and allow us to unhitch the yoke that the dog industry has had on Arizona's horse racing industry.