There has been a lot of recent attention on the expansion of gaming through sports betting and other mechanisms. I am genuinely concerned that in this rush to expand gaming, our leaders are forgetting about the existing industries in our state that have a longstanding history of supporting local tourism, jobs and critical state services.
The horse racing industry in Arizona has been a key economic driver for decades and is a time-honored tradition. For the past decade, horse racing in Arizona has struggled to compete with other states that have modernized the industry. Since 2004,
Arizona horse tracks have seen parimutuel handles drop $55 million a year, purses drop $5 million a year and live race attendance drop 45%. This drop in revenue directly impacts businesses and families in Pinal County. It is important to note that during this same time frame, tribal gross gaming revenues have increased from $1.3 billion to $2 billion, with little benefit to the state.
Luckily, Sen. David Gowan has introduced legislation to remove regulatory obstacles to allow historic horse racing in Arizona. Historic horse racing allows players to place pari-mutuel wagers on past races, in accordance with the current tribal gaming compact. This allows tracks to generate revenues after races and on non-racing days. This modernization plan will bolster Arizona’s presence among other states and provide a lifeline to the many supporting businesses, such as my family business, that rely on a thriving horse racing industry.
For my family, horse racing is not a hobby; it’s our passion and livelihood. I have spent my entire life involved in horse racing; my grandfather was a breeder as well as my dad. My wife and I have spent the past 35 years building our family-owned business in Coolidge, breeding quarter horses. We are active members of our community, employing longtime staff and buying local goods and products from Arizona-based businesses and farmers.
This is our home, and it pains me to see our elected representatives ignore the needs of this industry and community. My wife and I could have moved to another state that is focused on modernizing and building the racing industry, but we are committed to stay in Arizona and help save horse racing.
The men and women who work in this industry have a genuine love for the sport, the horses and the historic institution of racing. Arizona has deep racing roots, and it is sad to see the industry not thrive as it should in this great state. We have perfect year-round weather, incredible tracks across the state and a friendly business climate that can easily welcome those fleeing states like California.
I encourage our legislators representing Pinal County to save Arizona’s horse racing industry and support historic horse racing.
Ralph Fales is the owner of Fales Ranch in Coolidge. Visit www.savearizonahorseracing.com.