One of Arizona’s first legal sportsbooks has announced its decision to close its online wagering business. TwinSpires, who offered a full A-Z of betting markets to Arizonans, has confirmed that it will no longer accept bets in AZ as it turns its focus to other niches.
The brand is owned by the Churchill Downs horse racing track in Louisville that plays host to the Kentucky Derby each year. And while they have enjoyed prominence in racing betting, they have not been able to gain traction in the increasingly competitive sports market, despite launching to much fanfare in September 2021.
The firm’s CEO, Bill Carstanjen, confirmed: “We will exit the [B2C] online wagering space. This isn’t the result we wanted, but it is the prudent next step. We remain excited about TwinSpires horse racing.”
Betting on AZ
This wasn’t Churchill Downs’ first foray into sports betting – the ill-fated BetAmerica was their maiden effort to break into the industry in 2019, but since the liberalization of gambling laws they had been expanding their reach across Arizona and other states like Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Michigan.
However, a tough earnings call in 2021, Churchill Downs filed losses of $31.9 million for the year, suggested that the writing was on the wall for the brand, and it’s perhaps no major surprise that this announcement has come.
Indeed, it was widely reported back in December that Churchill Downs was considering selling TwinSpires, with Bloomberg reporting that the company officials were working with an unnamed adviser to ‘solicit potential interest’ in the brand.
The media outlet reported that TwinSpires could fetch up to $1.5 billion if it was sold, and so it’s maybe something of a shock that Churchill Downs chiefs have instead appeared to all but write-off the operation – apart from that successful horse racing division, which Carstanjen is very bullish about.
“Pre-COVID, we were about 40% of the horse racing market,” he revealed. “That jumped to 60% in 2020, and then in 2021 saw a steady state of 50% market share, so this is a very successful business.”
It is believed that the TwinSpires name will continue to live on through the various retail sportsbooks that they power. In Arizona, that relates specifically to the Mazatzal Hotel & Casino, although so far there has been no word as to the future of that enterprise, which is run in conjunction with the Tonto Apache Tribe.
As far as online sports betting in Arizona is concerned, the loss of TwinSpires won’t be too harshly felt given the wealth of options available to bettors in the Grand Canyon State. The likes of DraftKings, FanDuel, Caesars, and BetMGM continue to operate in AZ, with more likely to follow.
The Arizona Department of Gaming has confirmed that 18 license applications have now been approved, and with the state enjoying plenty of action – more than $1.2 billion was cleared by sportsbooks in AZ between the September launch and the end of January.