Arizona horse racing could hit a dead end early next year because the state agency that regulates pari-mutuel wagering is running out of money.
Kristian Fasching, a spokesman for the Arizona Department of Gaming, said funding cuts by the Legislature already have forced some layoffs, and the Division of Racing treasury is expected to be empty by March.
If that happens, Fasching said, live racing at Turf Paradise in Phoenix and Rillito Racetrack in Tucson likely would shut down, along with annual county fair races.
“We were blindsided by this,” Fasching added.
Under state law, Racing Division employees monitor thoroughbreds, jockeys and wagering to ensure the sport’s integrity and safety. Because the industry must be regulated under Arizona law, races likely would be canceled without agency oversight.
The division is not supported by Arizona taxpayers or the state’s general fund, but gets its financing from a percentage of betting proceeds, known as the regulatory wagering assessment (RWA). Half of the money comes from track owners, and half fromhorse owners.
In fiscal 2016, the Racing Division budget totaled $2.9 million. This year, lawmakers cut the regulatory assessment percentage by about one-third. They also decided a $250,000 Breeders Cup award must be paid from RWA proceeds, rather than the General Fund.
The bottom line: Available funds have dropped to about $1.5 million, and the…
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