Turf Paradise begins its 68th season amidst uncertainty on various fronts.

Turf Paradise Kicks Off 68th Season Despite Uncertainty on Multiple Fronts
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Despite facing an ongoing ownership dispute, Turf Paradise, the Phoenix horse racing track, is starting its 68th season on a positive note after a challenging year filled with setbacks at the corner of 19th Avenue and Bell Road.

The Arizona horse racing expert is still available for purchase, following an unsuccessful negotiation between owner Jerry Simms and a consortium led by Richard Moore and Frank Nickens in late 2021.

The most recent update in a string of news stories about the track involves the cancellation of the agreement. As a result, the track is now in search of a new Arizona sports betting operator after Unibet announced it will cease its American operations by the end of May.

Vincent Francia, the general manager of the North Valley racetrack, told yengols.com that the facility will be partnering with a new wagering company before the deadline. This transition will have little effect on the track’s betting customers, other than seeing a new brand name on the retail sportsbook.

Francia confirmed that sports betting at Turf Paradise will proceed with a new provider, guaranteeing uninterrupted services for customers.

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Is this the end?

Although the future of sports betting at Turf Paradise appears promising, the track’s on-course racing prospects are uncertain as Simms continues to seek a buyer after the unsuccessful deal with Moore and Nickens.

Francia has stated that the main objective of the course is to finish their 57-day racing schedule, which began on Monday and will run until Kentucky Derby Day on May 4th.

People in the racing industry in Arizona are optimistic that either another potential buyer or the previous owners will come forward just in time to secure the future ownership of the historic track for years to come.

Francia was optimistic that the $2 million handle on Monday’s successful opening day signaled a bright future for the track that surpassed their typical season beginnings.

Francia reported that Monday was a triumph, with devoted customers showing up and placing bets as anticipated. The revenue on our opening day surpassed expectations, especially for a Monday. We choose to schedule races from Monday to Thursday because we have a better market position on those days compared to Friday, Saturday, and Sunday when we are competing with larger tracks.”

Turf Paradise is looking to expand its sports betting offerings.

Even though Turf Paradise’s wagering license is currently limited, preventing the track from offering casino betting apps in Arizona, Francia noted that there is still a possibility of obtaining a full license in 2024.

Applications for the final two professional sports franchise wagering licenses in Arizona will be accepted by the Department of Gaming from February 16 to March 4. The Phoenix Rising Football Club is the only team in the state that has confirmed their intention to apply for a license.

TPC Scottsdale, where the Phoenix Open will take place, is one of Arizona’s eight locations with a professional sports betting license. They have teamed up with DraftKings Sportsbook Arizona to open an onsite retail sportsbook in October, which will also function as a VIP hospitality area during the PGA tournament.

Turf Paradise applied for a full license from the ADG in 2021 but was rejected. They tried to contest the decision in court but were ultimately unsuccessful.

During November, Turf Paradise and its nine off-track limited event wagering partners brought in a total handle of $1,816,005, which exceeded the online handle for Unibet Arizona ($983,242.30) in the same timeframe.

Francia has stated their intention to pursue a full wagering license before the ADG’s deadline, but their main focus is on finding a long-term owner and a new limited wagering partner after Unibet closed in May.

Francia emphasized that their top priority is to reassure their loyal customers who regularly use their sports betting services that there will be a smooth transition after Unibet ends their U.S. operations in May. They are exploring other options but want to make it clear that there will be no disruption in sports betting at Turf Paradise.

What’s next in store for Turf Paradise?

Francia is cautiously optimistic that a potential investor will provide the required funds to maintain the 213-acre track, with the expectation that Arizona sports betting will bring in a consistent revenue stream in the coming years.

Francia noted that the strong turnout on opening day was not surprising, given Turf Paradise’s longstanding presence in Phoenix since 1956, preceding other major sports teams in Arizona. The sudden possibility of the racecourse closing after 68 years came as a surprise to those who have cherished memories spanning generations at the venue.

The public’s overwhelming support left us speechless, as many offered their assistance and expressed their wish for the track to stay open in some form. Reopening was a great feeling, and the community coming together to show their support was truly touching.

Francia is optimistic about the facility’s future as Turf Paradise’s management has seen a great deal of interest from potential buyers since the previous deal fell through in late last year.

Francia confirmed that Turf Paradise’s horse racing operations will either stay with Jerry Simms or be transferred to a new owner before Kentucky Derby Day, after which the track will operate under new ownership.

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Author

Peterson Christopher

Peterson Christopher, who has covered sports and sports betting in Arizona for over seven years with experience at ArizonaSports.com, the Tucson Weekly, and the Green Valley News, now holds the position of lead writer at yengols.com.

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