PHOENIX — The owners of Turf Paradise won’t challenge a new law that is designed to provide some financial help for Arizona Downs.
But it remains to be seen whether Arizona Downs, which is in Prescott Valley, will get the teletrack signals it says it needs for its off-track betting operations — the very simulcast signals the law was designed to provide.
Vince Francia, general manager of Turf Paradise in Phoenix, told Capitol Media Services that company officials are backing away from their threat to try to overturn a new law signed earlier this year by Gov. Doug Ducey that says anyone who simulcasts live racing in Arizona from another state must offer that same signal — and at the same terms — to every track in the state, and all of their off-track betting sites.
Francia said his company is concerned that Arizona Downs has set up three off-track betting facilities near those already operated by Turf Paradise. That, he said, could mean unfair competition.
He said, though, the decision was made that going to court to block the law before it takes effect on Aug. 27 was not the right move.
“If it brings peace to the racing kingdom here in the state, then that’s an extra added benefit for everyone,” Francia said.
But he does not have the last word.
The signals at issue from several out-of-state tracks — the ones that Arizona Downs wants for its off-track betting sites — belong to Monarch Content Management Co. And Scott Daruty said his firm has no interest in sharing it with Arizona Downs’ off-track betting sites.
Monarch has provided the signals to Turf Paradise for years, along with its own off-track betting sites. It also has made them available to Arizona Downs so people can lay down bets there on out-of-state races.
What Monarch has been unwilling to do — and what the law is designed to force — is make the signals available to the six off-track betting sites operated by Arizona Downs, including three in the Phoenix area.
Daruty pointed out that the law does not technically force Monarch to sell to these off-track betting sites. Instead it is crafted as an all-or-nothing: Provide for all or provide for none.
“If we are forced to provide it to every location in Arizona or to none, then, unfortunately, our choice would be to provide the signal to none,” he told Capitol Media Services.
But Daruty said it may not come to that: While Francia and Turf Paradise are out of the lawsuit business, Monarch is not.
“We think the law is unconstitutional as written and we would intend to pursue the business as usual,” he said.
Monarch is planning to keep providing a signal to Turf Paradise and its off-track betting sites but not to those of Arizona Downs — and wait for the state to try to enforce the law.
He declined to be more specific about his firm’s litigation options.
“But let’s put it this way: There’s a contract in place that requires me to sell my signal to Turf Paradise and its OTBs,” Daruty said. “If the state of Arizona is saying it passed a law that makes that contract unenforceable, then I’m going to wait for the state of Arizona to notify me of that fact.”
Arizona Downs is able to offer off-track betting at its remote sites, but the signals from Monarch are of particular interest to those who wager on the ponies.
Monarch sells the signals from the tracks owned by the Sonarch Group, Monarch’s parent company. That includes California’s Santa Anita Park and Gulfstream Park in Florida.
Monarch also sells signals from other tracks its parent company does not own. And it sells the signals from the more than 130 days of live racing at Turf Paradise to other tracks.
Daruty said his concern is that allowing Arizona Downs to take wagers at its remote sites, particularly in Phoenix, will “cannibalize” the business now going to Turf Paradise’s off-track betting sites.
But Ann McGovern, general manager of Arizona Downs, said her operations are bringing in new wagering dollars, not simply siphoning off those already out there.
There’s also the fact that Arizona Downs has three other sites besides Phoenix: Lake Havasu City, Flagstaff and Pinetop-Lakeside.
Daruty said there’s another concern aside from the issues between Turf Paradise and Arizona Downs. He said allowing this law to stand unchallenged could set a “dangerous precedent,” opening the door for similar “all-or-nothing” laws in the more than 35 other states where Monarch operates.
Francia said if Monarch pulls out entirely it would not cripple Turf Paradise’s off-track betting network of 55 sites, as it gets signals from other tracks. But he said it would cut sharply into revenues as people would wager less.