Sorry, Wrong Number: Turf Paradise Ending Telephone Wagering

by | 01.01.2018 | 4:45pm
Telephone operators from the 1940s

Turf Paradise in Phoenix, Ariz., is pulling the plug on telephone wagering less than three years after the outdated service went into effect.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.

  • Thisisridiculous

    The fans that have phone betting accounts in Arizona need to send a clear message to Turf Paradise. Until phone betting is restored in Arizona we will place no bets either at the track or any of its OTB’s. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause for the track.

    • Steven Jobs

      Wrong – you need to get the message that there is better technology than you calling in your losing bets. I suppose you are still using a rotary phone. For a new year’s resolution you should vow to discover the internet.

    • Steven Jobs

      What is ridiculous is you calling in your losing bets, when technology provides a more efficient way for you to lose. A good new year’s resolution for you would be to discover the internet.

    • Joe Mayo

      You have it backwards. You are the one that needs to be sent a message and the message is to embrace technology. Why would you call your losing bets in when you can place them online without the risk of miscommunication? A good new year’s resolution for you would be to discover the internet.

    • Wally Whitehouse

      You have it backwards. You are the one who should be sent a message – UTILIZE TECHNOLOGY. As a new year’s resolution for you, how about ditching your rotary phone and discover the internet. It’s a much more efficient method for you to lose money.

      • Eric


      • Thisisridiculous

        Hey Wally guess you don’t know the tribal casinos are behind blocking us poor backward desert horse racing folks from using the internet to bet and that’s why we were stuck with only phone betting but it was better than nothing or driving to the distant OTB’s. Yes I do know how to use a computer and would greatly prefer to use it to bet with. This could happen if the state legislature would ever stand up for those of us in Arizona that don’t live on a reservation and make it legal to use the internet to wager on horse racing. In the meantime, Turf paradise should NOT cancel phone betting until we can persuade the AZ legislature to allow us to enter the 21st century.

        • David Pyrz

          You are correct! What a joke. This joke of a track ends phone betting and it is better then nothing. Instead they want you to go to an old dirty otb restaurant where you are pinned in a corner or go to Turf Paradise that has not had a remodel in years except for a can of paint once in awhile.

          Turf Paradise should be a great destination. Snowbirds galore and tons of transplants fro mall over the country and world. Hoe does New Mexico have better racing then AZ ? Because of the idiotic laws and terrible management of Turf Paradise

    • David Pyrz

      i agree . what a joke

  • Shasta Sam

    1970’s technology in 2018. Wonder why it failed? One of the least “fan-friendly” tracks in the nation. Bottom line is they don’t care and it shows.

  • Jay Reid

    Turf Paradise is an absolute joke this is ridiculous. This situation needs to be changed ASAP.

  • Carla P

    I love horse racing, lifelong fan, but am unfortunately a resident of Arizona. It takes 1 1/2 hours to drive to the track plus I’m a fan of SoCal racing anyway. The Turf Paradise racing is low class and poor to bet on. The OTBs here are pretty bad. If there’s a football game on you may as well not exist. The closest OTB bar “Bleachers”, drove me out of there once because I sat a table by myself on a big Basketball day (the “horseplayers” table was full at the time) plus the teller is usually outside smoking a cig and complaining about how hungover she is. Phone betting may be outdated but it was my only lifeline to horse betting. Indian casinos dominate the landscape here and until Turf Paradise gets online or phone wagering back or makes a deal to allow their signal into the Indian casinos, they have lost my business. I’ll make the trip to Santa Anita and Del Mar a couple times a year instead to get my fix.

  • Carla P

    I would also like to add, the website Xpressbet was absolutely awesome despite my being limited to dial in to place a bet. But I have no complaints at all about Xpressbet! Great company!

  • Scott Summers

    I’ve lived in AZ for over 15 years now, being from back east. I have played every track from Yonkers to Del Mar and I have to say that Turf paradise is making a BIG mistake if they think horseplayers will now turn from phone betting to going to their OTB’s and Turf Paradise itself. The track is an absolute hole and their OTB’s aren’t much better. While phone betting isn’t optimal…it is better than nothing (or the alternative that Mr Franzia is offering). Clearly they really don’t care about the bettor/fan because NOT ONE FAN WOULD OPT FOR LOSING PHONE WAGERING vs. going to an OTB or on-track. More proof they don’t really care: AZ is made up largely of senior citizens that don’t find it easy to travel … isn’t phone wagering a good option for these fans? I myself just don’t find it convenient to attend an OTB or the track…especially this one. Lastly…I’ll just say this: I have wagered over 600K in the past year (and thats not to brag) … I can promise Mr Franzia, if he thinks that will be made up by OTB wagering or on track wagering, he is sadly mistaken. I will now ‘spot play” in Vegas or in CA. I hope they do what is clearly right for the fans and re-institute phone wagering at the very least. Its bad enough we had to wait this long in AZ to ‘catch up” to the rest of the country when it comes to wagering… and now they are taking it away :( . Turf Paradise is being short-sighted and actually punishing the horseplayers that are the life’s blood of the sport.

    • Sal R

      Spot on Scott. This is the time TP needs to support the bettors and get this ridiculous law changed. Turf Paradise wants to control it all,how we bet,where we bet,what tracks we bet. Although I respect Mr Franzia his statement is a smokescreen to cover up Control. They are in the Dark Ages and the phone wagering law was a joke. I will miss it because as inconvenient as it was,Being retired and having had many health issues this past year. Phone wagering was my salvation. . I hope the legislators will wake up and pass the law the correct way. Look ath the other successful operations like TVG and Twin Spires. Gaming in our state is controlled by the Indians and TP wants control of horse betting. Get with it Gov Ducey. Give us a break! Thanks Scott for your comments.

      • dennis mcgarry

        Vince is nothing but Jerry Simms’ whipping boy, he does and says what he is told. Turf hasn’t had a real General Manager since Eugene Joyce.With a 20% takeout on win, place, show wagers, the highest in the nation, who in his right mind would wager on races there.

      • Scott Summers

        Thanks for the kind words Sal. Its disheartening when clearly Turf Paradise seems to hold all the cards here and if you’ve been to their facility lately, you can’t be too encouraged about their “vision”.

        • Scott Summers

          BTW…I think the picture above really does sum up how Turf paradise runs their current facility…

  • J. Nasium

    Gee and I thought the state legislators were stupid in Florida.

    • Bob C

      Gee and I thought the state legislators were stupid in Illinois.

  • Michael Castellano

    Reading between the lines a bit, it appears they actually want a bigger cut of telephone wagering. Given how little money they were bringing in, I doubt they have any leverage to accomplish this with such a strategy.. Racing make soon be extinct in AZ.

    • Eric

      It seems to be that even if Arizona got internet wagering approved, they would have the same problem – the serious horseplayers would leave the OTBs in droves, and the handle would flow thru the big name ADWs. There would be more total handle, but a low % would flow to TuP. Good luck getting TVG, TS, and XB to allow a bigger cut to go to the in state racetrack. They don’t care if Turf Paradise survives.

      • Michael Castellano

        Which is why some tracks need a national body that can negotiate the smaller track’s “cut” of internet wagering. Some, like NYRA, have their own internet wagering entity, but other tracks may not be able to afford one. TP is too small, apparently, to have any leverage.

  • Nytex

    Same lunacy as Texas, they would rather 100% of nothing instead of a small part of something.

  • Tjs

    Simple solution. Set up the phone banks at the track . Forget the ADW interface. This would be considered an on track wager and would enjoy the majority of the take out. Can’t understand why this wasn’t done in the first place.

    The ADWs are scourge of the racing industry.

  • laterush66

    Turf Paradise is a dump plain and simple

  • JoeJoe

    Just shut down the track. Short fields and crappy product. 3k claimers.., my god.,

  • dennis mcgarry

    The real problem at Turf Paradise, is the front man Jerry Simms! He and his partners are some of the most greedy operators in the Race Track Industry. The facility needs a major upgrade, and all the OTB’s are dumps! Each of them has an inadequate number of screens available for racing, and Turf is to cheap to install any more, nor do they have an adequate number of signals sent to their OTB’s. The best OTB in Arizona is MAX’s, and it is owned and run by the Dog Track! At Max’s, they are customer friendly, have Nevada style race book seating, plenty of screens for racing, as well as big screens. they also have better food, and drinks,at reasonable prices! Simms and his team should check it out sometime and see how to run a competent operation. Oh and Max’s has an extra signal, so that they can show more tracks!

  • Bill B.

    Just about any way you look at this, this is bad news for this racetrack and its seemingly few fans.

  • Tom in Chandler

    And back to California we go. It’s now Tom in West Sacramento. Phoenix is a great place to live, but apparently Arizona has decided it doesn’t need horseplayers.

  • Riz

    Maybe if they reduced their takeout more of us would play TUP more often!?

  • Riz

    If they would lower their takeout then maybe more would of played TUP, especially those of us from Cal. following horses.

  • Steven Tyre CPA

    Who cares? Only a moron would bet Turf Paradise with their crazy high takeout!

    • Scott Summers

      Steven…I think you missed the bigger picture here. Without phone wagering, AZ fans can’t wager on ANY races throughout the country, let alone Turf Paradise races so, we the fans, are paying the “ultimate “ price …

  • Spartan Dancer

    Turf Paradise – While you were agonizing for a few months on this decision, did you consult with an attorney that understands constitutional law? Someone with a little legal background and money should challenge your action. It violates the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution. States can’t regulate interstate commerce in the manner you have elected to operate.

  • Edward Johnson

    Maybe the TuP boys should take a course from the match race boys. They have a huge live turn out at their illegal, but really fun races a couple times a month. It’s a blast. I guarantee you they handle more than TuP does. Course they advertise on the radio and big Facebook sites etc. Our crack Az Dept of Racing/Gaming apparently doesn’t have a clue. Even tho they have been made aware. So I guess they dont have a spine either. If I was TuP I would be looking into getting that huge bunch of match race folks at the racetrack instead of far west Phx.

  • Nevergobackwards

    This announcement is full of so many discrepancies, I first year law student could handle this one.

    We could use the help of the ADW provider that spend money to accommodate Arizona outdated phone waging. The only way I knew this was being shutdown was a letter from Xpressbet. That had the class to notify there customers in advance. I called Twinspires and got some double talk hinting that nothing was official just continue to bet.

    I lived in Washington State for several years and they have it together. Sometimes I would bet at Portland Meadows which on track attendance is worse that Turf Paradise.

    They have the intelligence to know without online betting revenue their track would not make it. They even except deposits and withdrawals from xpressbet.

    Something is very wrong here. How can Turf Paradise stop something that was approved and signed by the Governor.

    In closing, I don’t drive to the track do to distance. I agree with another bettor that OTB sites are horrible. No seating, privacy, adequate tellers, at best one betting machine.

    I wrote comment to Turf Paradise regarding my dissatisfaction of this decision but it will probably make no difference.

  • Craig

    These guys are all clowns. Pass the internet bill already. By now canceling phone Bets you are going to lose at least 75% if not more of these players to out of the country web sites where they offer up to 7% money back incentives. The phone bet was ridiculous but it was better than nothing. The track is a dump and the off track betting locations are just as bad. If you think we are going there rather than somewhere more convientient like the internet you are clearly living in the 1980’s. Your only solution at this time is to allow internet wagering so you can at least show a small profit rather than a soon to be bankruptcy.

  • Steve Wells

    I wonder what this will do to the Company trying to re-open the track in Prescott,They wanted to get their signal into the casino’s,reading between the lines I think this is a ploy to keep them from proceeding.AZ Dept of racing meeting on the 11th maybe we will get a report then

  • Steve Wells

    Maybe tiny Rillito Park could take over the contract with the ADW’s

  • Richard C

    — Oh, oh, telephone line, give me some time, I’m living in twilight —

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