Turf Paradise in Phoenix has been ordered to complete repairs of an “unsafe” racetrack rail by March 31. Failure to comply with the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority’s (HISA) order will result in sanctions. Those include being prohibited from out-of-state simulcasting starting in April.
Turf Paradise general manager Vince Francia said last week that repair crews have been working “literally, night and day” to bring the rail into compliance. He added, “we have every intention of getting the work done by the deadline.”
Horse Racing and Sports Betting
The horse racing industry is at an unprecedented crossroads with the legalization of Arizona sports betting. There are three horse racing tracks in Arizona, and Turf Paradise operates the longest meet from late-October through early-May. The track also has a retail sportsbook and betting kiosks for fans interested in wagering at the track beyond pari-mutuel betting on horse racing.
But the popularity of simulcast racing and betting on races at other tracks across the country, including the biggest stakes and races like the Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown races, could be taken away soon until Turf Paradise complies with HISA’s rail orders.
What’s Going On With The Rail?
The ruling said that Turf Paradise had failed to comply with an earlier agreement to repair the rail. HISA had issued a notice of alleged violations to Turf Paradise in January that included deficiencies at the track related to HISA’s safety rules.
Turf Paradise reached an agreement with HISA on Feb. 24 on those non-compliance agreements. The venue paid $150,000 in assessment fees, not fines, to ensure its track meets updated standards.
Racetrack Laws and Regulations
The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority was created by Congress in July 2022. Its goal is to provide a uniform set of safety rules and promote a safe environment for horses. The Federal Trade Commission oversees HISA. Turf Paradise officials held off signing an agreement with the organization because some rules conflict with state racing regulations, and they feared losing their Arizona operating license.
HISA does not have the authority to cancel races at the track. But under HISA’s enabling regulation, the authority has the power to rescind a track’s ability to send its signal across state lines if the track is found to be in violation of one of the authority’s rules.
A Daily Racing Form report indicated that simulcast handle generally makes up approximately 90 percent of a track’s total wagering. However, revenue from simulcasting is far smaller than on-track handle.
The railing issue is clearly a safety hazard to jockeys, horses, and other riders at the track. A hearing on March 16 came after HISA stewards and employees conducted an examination of Turf Paradise’s rail. They provided photographs while describing in detail the “deteriorated condition of the railing material.”