Turf Paradise in Phoenix, Ariz., is pulling the plug on telephone wagering less than three years after the outdated service went into effect.
A statement on the Turf Paradise website said: “Effective January 9, 2018, all Phone Betting Accounts for Arizona residents will no longer be active. This includes phone betting accounts with TVG, Twin Spires, Xpressbet and Turf Paradise Bets. Contact your Phone Bet Provider to get the return of your money.”
Vincent Franzia, general manager of Turf Paradise, said limitations on the 2014 law – which required all advance deposit wagers be made through a telephone operator and not online via computers or smartphones – hampered chances of increasing revenue to tracks and horsemen and led to a decision not to renew contracts with ADW companies. Franzia said telephone wagering has not attracted many new customers – which he thinks Internet wagering has a better chance of doing – but instead has cannibalized business at Turf Paradise and its 60 off-track betting facilities throughout the state.
“It's been about three years we've been doing this, and it's averaging $14 million a year after totaling about $12 million in 2015, when we began in February,” Franzia said. “When the bill passed, the government wouldn't permit Internet betting. We thought telephone wagering was a foot in the door, and maybe the legislators would eventually open it up to include Internet. That hasn't happened.”
Other states that permit advance deposite wagering allow bets to be made through an online interface that is legal through the federal Interstate Horseracing Act.
The loss in revenue comes from a reduced portion of takeout on bets. Franzia said Turf Paradise and horsemen share approximately 15 percent of an on-track or OTB wager inside Arizona but were only getting about 5 percent of a telephone bet, Franzia said.
“We didn't make this decision lightly,” Franzia said. “We have been stressing over it for two months. We feel bad about it because of the horseplayers, who've gotten used to it. I've received more than 40 emails and gotten several phone calls,” he added. “Hopefully, maybe we can get the legislature to change their minds and expand it to include Internet wagering.”
The legislature meets Jan. 8.
“The Internet would make the difference, generating enough handle so we could at least break even,” Franzia added. “The whole world is using the Internet. If you don't exist on iPhones and Android phones, you don't exist.”
Following is the message from Franzia on the Turf Paradise website:
Dear Arizona Phone Bet Account Holder:
First, Turf Paradise apologizes for any inconvenience the cancellation of Phone Betting services in Arizona has caused you.
Due to strict gaming regulations, we were never able to offer Advanced Deposit Wagering (ADW) the way you the customer deserved: with full Internet access and the ability to use Phone Apps. So, rather than enhancing your experience by creating more and easier ways to play and creating new fans, it resulted in quite the opposite: Phone Betting cut into Turf Paradise's on-track and Off Track Betting (OTB) handles, the two sources from which we derive benefit for our purse account and our business.
With Phone betting, less money was being wagered on-track and thru our OTB system. Thus, less money was available for purses and our business.
In the three years we have conducted Phone Betting, approximately $3.6 million has been taken from the Arizona horse racing industry.
Turf Paradise thanks our Phone Betting partners: TVG, Twin Spires and Xpressbet. They have been helpful at every turn of the road; they have been excellent to work with and they understand why we are making this decision.
Each Arizona Phone Bet Account customer should contact your Phone Bet provider to get the return of your money.
Turf Paradise is mindful of its fans: the sport does not exist without the horseplayers. We regret any inconvenience this cancellation may cause. We want you to continue to be patrons of Turf Paradise horse racing, on-track and thru our OTB system.
Again, this decision was not made lightly. But it was a decision that had to be made in the best interest of Arizona horse racing.
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