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Arizona Tracks Seek Slot Machines

5 February 2002

ARIZONA – Feb. 5, 2002 –As reported by the Arizona Republic: "Arizona voters may get to decide whether to allow slot machine gambling to spread off the Indian reservations and into large metropolitan areas this November.

"Senate President Randall Gnant, R-Scottsdale, introduced a legislative referendum Monday that would allow horse and dog racetracks to run their own video slot machines to draw a new generation of gamblers into their clubhouses.

"Large racetracks like Turf Paradise in north Phoenix would automatically become the biggest casinos in the state, with more than double the current slot machine capacity of any Indian casino.

"…Gnant's bill would give tracks the right to run up to 1,000 devices called video lottery terminals, which differ from conventional slot machines only in that they pay winners not through coins but through printed tickets redeemable for cash.

"It could draw an estimated $100 million in new revenue for the tracks, which would be required to pay back 30 percent in taxes to the state. It would not give the tracks any table games, such as poker or blackjack, and would tax Indian casinos at a rate up to 12 percent.

"…The drive for the video slots, which will come backed with heavy lobbying muscle, is a reversal of message from racetrack interests, who until recently had said their goal was not to acquire slot machines.

"…The 60-year-old Arizona racetrack industry says it cannot compete with Indian casinos, which have grown to rake in an estimated $1 billion per year since they were legalized by federal law nine years ago.

"But state government figures released last September show that racetracks have enjoyed record-breaking profits, with $61 million received in fiscal year 2001, up $3 million from the year before.

"Track advocates counter that smaller facilities, especially greyhound tracks, are taking crippling losses and that most of the growth in the business comes from off-track betting parlors…"

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