For the past few years at the Arizona Legislature, state leaders have been focused on economic development policies that favor large out-of-state corporations rather than focus on the needs of rural Arizona. We have an extremely diverse state, and the wish list of the urban core should not take priority over the realities facing many small, family-owned businesses throughout the state.
Our local ranching, breeding, farming, and agriculture community is an ecosystem dependent on the success of many industries, particularly horse racing. As horse racing has struggled over the years, local leaders have rejected proposals that would help modernize the industry, instead following the demands of Native American the tribes. Now, Gov. Doug Ducey is ignoring the needs of rural communities as he negotiates the widespread expansion of tribal gaming and sports wagering that will benefit large corporations.
Rather than speak to the horsemen, breeders, ranchers, trainers and the many industries that are dependent on a successful horse racing industry and hear our concerns, Ducey is following the demands of tribal leaders and professional sports owners.
Arizona is not the only state renegotiating tribal compacts and exploring ways to modernize the horse racing industry. Many Republican governors across the nation are taking a more inclusive approach.
For example, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida is the middle of a gaming compact negotiation and has included the racetracks in the conversation. DeSantis is looking out for the well-being of his entire state by making it clear any new gaming compact must benefit the operators of racetracks. A spokesperson for the governor was quoted recently in the South Florida Sun-Sentinal saying, “As we consider a path forward and options for the state on gaming, we believe it is important to hear from representatives from the pari-mutuel industry. It’s important they have a voice in the conversation.”
Sadly, here in Arizona our governor has taken a different approach, ignoring the needs of horse racing and the multitude of rural, locally owned businesses that support the industry. There has been no meeting, no conversation, no discussion about how the state can help us modernize the industry as we can compete with other states. Instead, our needs are being ignored while high-paid special interests are seeking the widespread expansion of gambling that will directly benefit casinos and billion-dollar sports teams. It’s time to make rural Arizona a priority and include the needs of our community in the renegotiation of the tribal gaming compact.
Bob Hutton is president of the Arizona Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association.