New Twist In Arizona Racing Saga Tabled As Commission Requests Hearing On Monarch Contracts

Those following the ongoing saga of racing and simulcasting in Arizona walked away from the latest meeting of the Arizona Racing Commission on Oct. 8 with limited clairity. Negotiations are ongoing between Turf Paradise and the horsemen regarding a live meet at the Phoenix track in 2021, which under current terms is likely to take place Jan. 2-May 1. While commission staff have seen a proposal to race those dates, the group held off voting on it until a final agreement is reached between the two parties.

(Read more about the dispute between Turf Paradise and the horsemen in this Sept. 23 column from Ray Paulick.)

Commissioners did ask track officials about rumors the facility has sold off certain equipment and let the track and barn area slide into disrepair. Representatives from Turf Paradise assured the commission that if racing dates were granted, the track would be safe for horses and humans in time for the meet to begin. Turf Paradise general manager Vincent Francia said “none of the essential equipment” like ambulances, water trucks and other maintenance vehicles had been sold.

Turf Paradise representatives also hoped the commission would grant a reduction in the minimum number of live racing dates required to operate OTBs in the state, given the current Arizona and federal-level state of emergency declarations. The commission delayed action on this question and requested more information about the language of existing rules allowing a reduction in minimum live racing dates as it may apply specifically to a pandemic.

For many, the most critical item on Thursday’s agenda was consideration by the commission of simulcast agreements between Monarch Content Management and Arizona Downs in Prescott Valley, and Monarch with Turf Paradise. Monarch, owned by The Stronach Group, brokers simulcast contracts on behalf of Stronach tracks Santa Anita, Golden Gate Fields, Gulfstream Park, Laurel Park, Pimlico, plus Del Mar, Monmouth Park and Tampa Bay Downs.

Attorney Kory Langhofer, representing Arizona Downs, revealed that the most recent draft of the agreement Monarch sent the track would require money wagered at Arizona Downs OTBs to be held in a separate pool and not commingled into the host track’s pools.

“It’s going to have a profound effect on the commercial viability of those sites,” Langhofer said.

Langhofer also suggested he understood the copy of the contract offered to Turf Paradise by Monarch did not have this restriction, instead allowing money wagered at those facilities to go into the host track’s pools as is customary.

“It hasn’t been approved and my client won’t approve it because it’s unreasonable,” said Langhofer, who urged the commission not to approve the contract between Monarch and Turf Paradise either. He was unsure whether Monarch imposed similar restrictions on operators in other states.

Arizona has a law on the books, similar to one in California, requiring that if a company sells simulcast signals to one track in the state, it must sell to all. Attorneys for Turf Paradise, which is apparently in favor of Arizona Downs OTBs being restricted this way, pointed out that the law doesn’t say anything about what the pool arrangements should be. Language in the rule that contracts can’t be “anti-competitive and deceptive” refer to the rates charged for signals, not to the specific constructs of a deal. Scot Claus, an attorney for Monarch, accused Arizona Downs of repeatedly defaulting on its contracts with Monarch and said that out-of-state tracks sending their signal into Arizona cannot be forced to take wagers into their pools.

Ultimately, the commission voted unanimously to hold a special hearing to consider the Monarch contracts, with instructions that attorneys for each party should file briefs of no longer than 25 pages before the next racing commission meeting. The next regularly scheduled commission meeting is Nov. 12, 2020.

The post New Twist In Arizona Racing Saga Tabled As Commission Requests Hearing On Monarch Contracts appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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