Authorities dismantle illegal Ariz. horse track

Posted: Updated:
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PICACHO, Ariz. -- The Arizona Department of Gaming says it has dismantled an illegal horse track near Picacho, about half-way between Phoenix and Tucson.

Gaming spokesman Rick Medina says that five people are believed to be directly involved with running the operation but no arrests have yet been made. The case has been turned over to the Attorney General's Office for consideration.

Medina says the department got an anonymous phone call from a concerned citizen about illegal horse races.

Gaming agents raided the track on Saturday, shut down the operation and seized evidence.

Possible charges including conducting a criminal enterprise, and promoting and benefiting from gambling.

Medina says that about a dozen horses at the site were examined and found to be in good shape. They were returned to their owners.

On weekends, up to three hundred people would pay a $10 fee to attend the three horse, 200 yard races at Pantoji, which were held in full view of Interstate 10. 

Mark Brnovich, Director of Arizona's Department of Gaming, said illegal betting was rampant during those races and last Saturday, June 9th, his department, the Department of Public Safety and the Arizona Attorney General's Office conducted a raid at the race track.

A three horse starting gate, other equipment and a large amount of cash were confiscated and a number of people, identified as the racing ring leaders could face possible prosecution. 

In spite of violating a number of Arizona laws, little was done to keep the racing at Pantoji a secret. 

The track had it's own website, distributed posters throughout the area, and was videos of the races were easily found on YouTube. 

In spite of it being popular and held in the open, the State Gaming Department's investigation began early this year when people living close to the track complained about noise, dust and traffic.

As the investigation continues, Brnovich hopes last weekend's raid at Pantoji will send a message that illegal gaming in Arizona won't be tolerated.