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Howard Stutz

Arizona proposal might introduce racinos

24 January 2011

PHOENIX, Arizona -- Nevada casinos, which have faced a challenge over the past decade by the growing Indian gaming market in California, could see competition from another neighboring state.

Arizona, facing a $1 billion budget shortfall next fiscal year, could see casinos pop up at the state's racetracks.

A freshman Republican lawmaker is pushing the effort, which would allow Arizona to join 12 other states with racinos. According to the Arizona Republic, the proposed bill does not have any co-sponsors and has not been assigned for committee hearings.

Racetrack owners and lobbyists told the newspaper they were unaware of the bill, which is unusual since they were heavily involved in similar efforts.

The casino concept may not go anywhere. Before the current legislative session began, both the senate leader and house speaker said they were not considering the idea as a budget solution.

"I'd just as soon drive to Vegas," Republican Senate President Russell Pearce said at an Arizona Republic editorial-board meeting last month.

Two previous efforts to legalize racinos in Arizona failed.

Voters rejected the idea in 2002 and a 2009 effort failed to gain legislative support.

A 2009 study conducted by racetrack operators projected gaming revenue at 10 locations, taxed at 45 percent, would bring the state's general fund $375 million a year.