State Capitol News
Tue July 21, 2009
Racetrack owners push expanded gaming
By Howard Fischer
Phoenix, AZ – Track owners hope to take advantage of the state's dire finances
to get permission to open casinos.
In 2002 voters gave Indian tribes the exclusive right to operate
casinos in the state in exchange for a share of the profits. And
they rejected a competing plan to also let horse and dog tracks
have slot machines. Now the tracks have hired lobbying and PR
firms to try to have lawmakers in essence overturn that decision.
Publicist Jason Rose said what's changed is the state's budget
(There's political schizophrenia going on in Arizona right now.
And it is, we don't want our taxes increased. But we're not
thrilled about cutting spending that's going to impact areas A, B
and C. So what do you do? You have to find new sources of
Rose said casinos at racetracks could generate $500 million a
year to start, compared with less than $90 million a year in
tribal revenue sharing. But Sheila Morago of the Arizona Indian
Gaming Association said there's more to consider.
(This is a budget problem and we realize that. And it's bad. But
you're talking about changing the landscape of Arizona forever.
This is a genie you cannot put back in the bottle.)
What voters want now is up for debate. The tribes have a survey
showing most people want casinos limited to reservations. But the
tracks have their own poll showing Arizonans prefer casinos at
racetracks to general tax hikes and cutting services.