In the latest twist of what has become a gut-wrenching saga for the Arizona horse racing industry, Turf Paradise, a famous track in Phoenix, announced it will not open for its usual slate of November races.
“Turf Paradise Race Course announced today that the Phoenix track will not open for its live race meet in early November,” the track’s management recently posted on its website.
The news comes as the property is being sold to CT Realty, a real estate investment and development company based in Newport Beach, California.
Turf Paradise track’s future is awash in uncertainty amid a sale
Turf Paradise opened in 1956 and has been a stalwart in the Phoenix horse racing scene for decades. The track’s November live meet is one of the highlights of its yearly race schedule. During the event, the track hosts races in conjunction with a simulcast of the Breeder’s Cup.
Additionally, the meet kicks off around four months of live race days at the track that concludes with a simulcast of the Kentucky Derby.
Like many tracks across the country, Track Paradise shut down at the onset of the pandemic. Like its counterparts, it opened back up for racing. However, the announcement of a possible purchase by CT Realty in May threw into chaos plans to open for the 2023-2024 season.
Furthermore, a post by Axios Phoenix noted, the track’s owners had to cancel the summer racing season because it didn’t have enough money.
HHR machines could be coming to the Phoenix horse racing track
CT Realty’s goal is to transform Turf Paradise into a multi-use development that includes industrial and multi-family spaces, Axios Phoenix noted. At the same time, CT Realty’s James Watson said at a track event earlier this year he hoped to restore the track to its “former luster.”
However, local reports from May indicated CT was interested in keeping racing alive at the track on one condition: that it could introduce historic horse racing (HHR) machines.
These machines allow bettors to gamble on horse races that have taken place in the past. While not considered slot machines, operators view them in the same vein as slots: an opportunity for a lot of revenue.
HHR machines are a revenue lifeline for the horse racing industry, which has faced steady declines over the past decades. And, certainly, HHRs would be a huge win for Turf Paradise’s push to remain open and provide racing.
However, HHRs aren’t legal in Arizona. And because of that, CT Realty has asked lawmakers to legalize HHRs.
If HHRs decide the fate of Turf Paradise, the odds are not in the track’s favor just yet. In 2021, a Senate committee reviewed an HHR bill but failed to pass it.
Regardless, Watson seemed optimistic about HHRs’ chances when he commented in a post by Arizona’s ABC 15 in May.
“We think we have a formula that is a win-win-win for everybody,” Watson said. “There’s a lot of rich history here to horse racing and we want to see it last.”