Read What National Horse Racing Media Has To Say About Florida’s Misguided “Decoupling” Proposal

bloodhorse-logo1Top national Thoroughbred turfwriter Tom LaMarra noted in his September 29, 2015 column that “Efforts by casino operators and lawmakers to back away from the original intent of laws that linked approval for gaming to live pari-mutuel racing—some of the legislation has titles that expressly mention preservation of horse racing and breeding—are nothing new. In some states the pushback began only several years after the laws took effect.”

“Florida’s two Thoroughbred tracks do far better than most in the country, and it’s apparent by how well their product is received in the marketplace. Messing with that progress now, as the industry attempts to reinvent itself, certainly isn’t the way to go.”

Click HERE to read Tom LaMarra’s entire column, entitled “A Big Step Backward.”

One reader wisely commented:

“If lawmakers want to see the future of horse racing in a decoupled state, they ought to look at Illinois.  Arlington Park, perhaps the finest horse racing facility in the country, has seen its handle plunge an unthinkable 50% in just two years.  Lawmakers there have decimated an entire industry and for what? Because the casino owners want a monopoly share of the gambling market.  It’s not as if the casinos will fail, they will still thrive either way; horse racing tracks will go under and take an entire industry with them.”

Advertisements

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s Action on Gretna Racing Slot Machine Ruling Cheered by Florida’s Thoroughbred Racehorse Owners and Trainers

In response to the news that Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has requested a full-court rehearing of a recent ruling allowing slot machines at Gretna Racing LLC, Florida’s Thoroughbred racehorse owners and trainers agreed that, without such intervention, the result of allowing the earlier decision to stand would indeed be a “jaw-dropping gambling expansion.”

Representing more than 6,000 horsemen statewide, the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (FHBPA) President Bill White reminded that, during the span of December 2011 to January 2012, Gretna Racing LLC leveraged “pari-mutuel barrel racing” to convince the Gadsden County Commission to hold a slot referendum on January 31, 2012.   Other pari-mutuel permit holders followed suit, basing their actions on various convolutions of horse-related events designed as work-arounds to Florida law, which requires two years worth of live horse racing as a prerequisite to licensing for card rooms or slot machines.

In 2013, it was adjudicated that “pari-mutuel barrel racing” was not even real barrel racing, but wrongly approved as a new gambling product by the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering with no legislative authorization, regulatory hearings or public input.

The most recent developments in the Gretna Racing matter have led horsemen to question whether a slot license legally can, or should be granted to the North Florida pari-mutuel permitholder, or any similar permitholder that has used horse-related events in a manner that has precluded the creation of jobs, businesses and positive economic benefit that would normally come with accredited horse racing and breeding operations.

The FHBPA and its colleagues, the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association, and the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association, have strongly objected to the use of questionable horse-related events like “flag dropping” and “pari-mutuel barrel racing” in lieu of horse racing–heretofore unheard-of events that have been allowed to serve as the pari-mutuel basis for licensing of 365-day cardrooms, simulcasting or efforts to secure slot machines.

“If accredited horse racing would have been required in these locations, their local communities could have created far more jobs, businesses and economic impact,” White explained.  “For this reason, we urge General Bondi to strive to preserve one of Florida’s foremost economic generators–its world-renowned Thoroughbred horse racing industry, as well as its rapidly growing American Quarter Horse racing industry.”

“This is a good opportunity to remind our policymakers  that the purpose of state-sanctioned gambling is to increase tax revenues and economic impact, not to create the optimal atmosphere for out-of-state casinos or otherwise untaxed profits,” White noted.

For Now, “Pari-Mutuel Barrel Racing” Qualifies Gretna Racing LLC For Slots

THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA’s Dara Kam reported on May 29, 2015:   “In what could be a game changer in Florida’s gambling arena, an appeals court today ordered state regulators to allow slot machines at a Gadsden County racetrack . . . “

The Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association is disappointed that the First District Court of Appeal ruled on May 29, 2015 in favor of allowing slot machines at Gretna Racing LLC.  We are hopeful that the Florida Attorney General will continue in her efforts.

During the span of December 2011 to January 2012, Gretna Racing LLC leveraged “pari-mutuel barrel racing” to convince the Gadsden County Commission to hold a slot referendum on January 31, 2012.

Given that three court rulings have held that “pari-mutuel barrel racing” was not even real barrel racing, but wrongly approved as a new gambling product by the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering with no legislative authorization, regulatory hearings or public input, the FHBPA strongly questions whether a slot license legally can, or or should be granted to Gretna Racing LLC, or any similar permit that has used horse-related events in a manner afoul of the “pari-mutuel barrel racing” court rulings.

Further, for every pari-mutuel permit that has since been used in this manner to gain a 365-day per year card room, slot referendum or otherwise, there have been thousands of Florida horsemen’s jobs lost that would otherwise have been created if accredited and legitimate horse racing would have been required in these locations.

We urge General Bondi to strive to preserve one of Florida’s foremost economic generators–its world-renowned Thoroughbred horse racing industry, as well as its rapidly growing Quarter Horse racing industry.

This is a good opportunity to remind that the purpose of state-sanctioned gambling is to increase tax revenues and economic impact, not to create the optimal atmosphere for out-of-state casinos or otherwise untaxed profits on the backs of horsemen’s small businesses.

To read news coverage by Dara Kam of THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA, click HERE.

Gambling regulators at the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation rejected Gretna Racing’s request for slot machines late in 2013, relying in part on an opinion issued by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, whose office represented the agency in the First DCA lawsuit.

Gretna Racing has since conducted “flag drop” events, which are not approved, accredited or sanctioned in any way by theFlorida Quarter Horse Racing Association, which is the Florida Chapter of the American Quarter Horse Association.

“Gretna 5.0” Gambling Creep Could Come To Debary, Florida

Debary City Council to Take Up Proposed “Land Use Change” on May 6 Agenda

May 6, 2015–Carrying with it the suspected possibility of continuing the recent gambling creep in Florida via unsanctioned horse-related events, a “land use change” that professional Florida horsemen fear could actually be “Gretna 5.0” is on the Debary City Council agenda today.

Representing Thoroughbred and accredited Quarter Horse racehorse owners, trainers and breeders statewide, Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association President Bill White and Vice President Tom Cannell will be on hand to appear before the Debary City Council in Volusia County with the hope of conveying the devastating toll taken on Florida’s lucrative horse racing industry by spurious horse events posing as fronts for cardrooms and even slot machines.

“A real horse racing meet requires thousands of horses and nearly three times the employees to care for them,” White explained.  “We are highly concerned that the connections of Debary Real Estate Holdings are not planning to hold real horse racing.   Unfortunately, without ensuring legitimate racing operations from the outset of the proposed project, the Debary and Volusia County economy will not ever be able to realize the far-reaching commensurate benefits that real horse racing and breeding can bring.”

The Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association, the only organization that can sanction legitimate Quarter Horse racing in Florida, confirmed that it has not been contacted by Debary Real Estate Holdings, which has direct connections to Gretna Racing, Inc., the same pari-mutuel permitholder that attempted to legalize “pari-mutuel barrel racing.”

“The proposal behind today’s ‘land use change’ request will not bring more jobs, more green space, more economic impact or more revenue without accredited horse racing,” White explained.  “For each spurious pari-mutuel permit that is allowed to operate, Florida forfeits a large piece of its horse racing industry at a critical time when the need to create jobs is at its most urgent.”

To access the May 6 Debary City Council agenda, click here.

Recent news coverage by Mark Harper of the Daytona Beach News-Journal on the Debary Real Estate Holdings issue:

Media Inquiries Please Contact Kent Stirling at (305) 625-4591 or Bill White at (954) 303-5448

 

Paulick Report Videos Reveal Florida’s Dirty Parimutuel Secret–Phony Horse “Racing”

Paulick Report Videos of South Marion Real Estate Holdings Oxford Downs

 

Paulick Report publisher Ray Paulick and his crew visited the latest Florida phony horse racing venue, South Marion Real Estate Holdings’ “Oxford Downs” yesterday, July 1, 2014.

The slate of videos they returned with was nothing short of shocking . . . take your pick below!   We especially enjoyed how the Oxford Downs “staff” (complete with child holding 5-iron) had to call for reinforcements upon Ray’s arrival at the “front gate!”

Despite Florida Horsemen’s Written Complaint and Court Rulings, Regulators Approve More Phony Marion County Horse “Races” Today

Despite related court rulings and a written complaint filed with the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering by the United Florida Horsemen about the blatant misuse of a pari-mutuel permit issued to “South Marion Real Estate Holdings,” horse-based competitions are nevertheless scheduled to take place at the permitholder’s facility (known as “Oxford Downs”) today, July 1, 2014.

Billed as legitimate horse races, the two-horse competitions are essentially a mockery of actual horse racing, and have raised deep concern about animal welfare and regulatory standards among Florida’s horse racing owners, trainers and breeders.

“We, and our many members, are appalled by the continuing disrespect and disregard for well-established industry standards and practices by a few businessmen looking for a shortcut to poker room profits,” the United Florida Horsemen wrote to Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering Director Leon Biegalski in its May 27, 2014 complaint, to which no response has been received to date.

To read the entire United Florida Horsemen complaint, click here.

Critically, the “Oxford Downs” horse competitions are designed to sharply curtail horsemen’s participation, so as to presumably limit the positive economic activity that would normally be generated by thousands of horses and their caretakers present at a normal race meeting—creating jobs and strengthening Florida’s economy, but removing gambling profits from “Oxford Downs’” bottom line.

“These charades would almost be comical if they didn’t have such a corrosive effect on the integrity and viability of our industries and if they didn’t result in lost jobs and livelihoods—not to mention the negative impact they have on the basic character of the pari-mutuel industry in Florida . . . “the United Florida Horsemen wrote, referring to the horse racing industry’s annual billion-dollar economic impact.

The United Florida Horsemen include the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association, and the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association.  The organizations comprise nearly 10,000 Florida racehorse owners, trainers and breeders who do business in Florida.

 

Florida Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse Owners, Trainers, Breeders Adopt Unprecedented Therapeutic Horse Racing Medication Uniformity Plan

Yet, Florida Legislature May Not Act to Seal the Deal

April 22, 2014–As national voices have gained strength in the debate on the use of therapeutic medication in horse racing, a group of organizations representing nearly 10,000 Florida Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse owners, trainers and breeders had already taken the unprecedented step of uniting behind a uniform policy endorsed by both the Jockey Club and American Quarter Horse Association.  The proposal was filed in the Florida Legislature as amendment language and is yet awaiting the chance to be approved by lawmakers.

Born of a longstanding working partnership known as “United Florida Horsemen” on both Florida legislative and regulatory issues, the agreement was finalized during early April and includes the approval and endorsement of the following professional associations and organizations:

“Unfortunately, with Florida lawmakers having declared pari-mutuel and other gambling issues to be ‘dead’ for this Session, the legislative authorization needed for this unprecedented consensus will most likely have to wait another year,” explained FHBPA Executive Director Kent Stirling, a credentialed national authority who has testified before Congress on the issue.

“Florida horsemen have long stated that their goal has always been a set of national rules that gives all racing jurisdictions a level playing field in terms of thresholds and which medications are allowable.  Earlier this month, working with Matt Iuliano from the Jockey Club, we were finally able to draft and submit legislation here in Florida which achieves that goal,” explained FHBPA President Phil Combest.

Among the most notable components of the plan espoused by the United Florida Horsemen was the adoption of Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI) Penalty Guidelines and agreement to adopt the Schedule of ARCI Controlled Therapeutic Medications.

“With the power of Florida’s horsemen now in complete alignment, we’re optimistic that the recent commitments toward uniformity by our industry colleagues will continue to drive the national conversation toward state-by-state adoption of both legislation and regulation necessary to make real uniformity a reality,” Stirling said.  “While we wait on Florida’s Legislature to act—hopefully in alignment with the aggressive goals set forth this week by the Stronach Group’s ambitious plan, we’re confident that Florida now sets the standard for true uniformity for others that have yet to come on board.”

Florida’s 2014 Legislative Session concludes on May 2.

To learn more about legislative and regulatory issues facing Florida’s billion-dollar horse racing industry, go to www.FloridaHorsemen.com

Florida Turning Away Quarter Horse Business Happily Received By Australian “Sunshine State”

“American Quarter Horse racing is big business and it takes a country like Australia to recognize its many economic benefits,” said FQHRA Board member Ben Hudson, who is among the group of national AQHA executives called upon by Australia to handle the project. “It’s a conundrum as to why Florida is casting aside the very same opportunity eagerly sought out by a government as large, historic and experienced as Queensland.”

FQHRA/AQHA executives were invited by Queensland’s Premier Campbell Newman to join him in making the announcement about their role in Australia’s new Quarter Horse racing program before a cheering crowd of 75,000 last month in Texas, just before he finalized a Queensland/Texas sister state agreement with Texas Governor Rick Perry.

 
Roughly twice the size of Texas and known as the “Sunshine State” Down-Under, Australia’s Queensland announced in March 2014 that it has commissioned executives from the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association (FQHRA) and its parent, the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) to oversee the development and regulation of American Quarter Horse racing for the entirety of Queensland—the world’s sixth-largest sub-national entity.
 
“American Quarter Horse racing is big business and it takes a country like Australia to recognize its many economic benefits,” said FQHRA Board member Ben Hudson, who is among the group of national AQHA executives called upon by Australia to handle the project. “It’s a conundrum as to why Florida is casting aside the very same opportunity eagerly sought out by a government as large, historic and experienced as Queensland.”
 
The Australian Quarter Horse Association is part of the American Quarter Horse Association. 
 
The FQHRA/AQHA executives were invited by Queensland’s Premier Campbell Newman to join him in making the announcement before a cheering crowd of 75,000 last month in Texas, just before he finalized a Queensland/Texas sister state agreement with Texas Governor Rick Perry.  During the presentation, Premier Newman reminded the crowd that Texas is the “spiritual home of Quarter Horse racing.”
 
Guided by the careful oversight and experience of the FQHRA/AQHA executive contingent, Queensland’s new Quarter Horse racing authority will develop accredited competition rules, promote the breeding and acquisition of racing stock and provide for the construction of a safe, regulation racing facility.
 
Multi-million-dollar national American Quarter Horse racing operations have long regarded Florida as ripe for business development.  The consecutive years of growth spearheaded by the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association at Hialeah Park have confirmed the existence of a strong Florida Quarter Horse racing market, but frustrating regulatory disappointments and legal wrangling during the past several years have halted business expansion, with not much encouragement that the yet-existing and prohibitive loopholes deterring that growth will be closed during the 2014 Florida Legislative Session.
 
“The business development capacity that Florida is unwittingly leaving on the table is, instead, being eagerly recruited by those who truly understand the reality of Quarter Horse racing’s economic potential,” Hudson added.  “We hope that our Florida policymakers realize before it’s too late that legislative inaction has not only allowed gambling to continue to expand in Florida without legislative authorization, and worse, at the expense of a lucrative industry that is well recognized and thoroughly understood by much larger, more populous jurisdictions as a pivotal and indispensable economic development tool.”
 
During the past three years, Florida regulators have cited the state’s lack of a definition for “horse racing” as the reason for continuing to award pari-mutuel licenses for questionable events such as “barrel match racing,” “flag drops” and this past week, a series of distorted, miscast timed events that were vehemently opposed by multiple regional and national Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing owner, trainer, breeder and jockey organizations alike.
The activities have undermined both sports by deliberately curtailing the need for the amount of horses (and thus business and employees) that a normal racetrack would otherwise generate.
 
To read more about the Queensland project, click below:

Florida Gambling Expansion Alive and Well TODAY in South Marion County With More Phony Horse Events Leveraged for New Card Room

Marion Gaming Management, Central Florida Gaming, Ft. Myers Real Estate Holdings

Check out the “facilities” at Florida’s newest “racetrack”

April 7, 2014–Even as Florida lawmakers declared gambling expansion to be a “dead issue” last week, it ironically expanded TODAY in South Marion County, thanks to Florida regulators issuing a license for more unaccredited horse-related “timed events” enabling the pari-mutuel permitholder of “South Marion Real Estate Holdings” to open a 365-day a year card room at a facility it calls “Oxford Downs” near The Villages—a popular Central Florida retirement community.

“We cannot fathom why Florida seems intent on dismantling its billion-dollar horse racing industry in this manner,” said Kent Stirling, Executive Director of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (FHBPA).  “As lawmakers deliberate the importance of funds for the State Budget this week, the loss of horse racing’s substantial economic and job creation engine is something taxpayers can ill afford.”

Because Florida law provides no definition of “horse racing,” regulators have continued to issue licenses to some pari-mutuel permitholders for various contrived activities that skirt the State’s requirement for live horse racing in order to hold cardrooms or slot machines.  The activities dramatically curtail the amount of horses (and thus businesses and employees) that would normally be needed to conduct a legitimate race meeting and corresponding breeding industry.

In a last-ditch effort to educate the Marion County Commission that gambling would be expanding in the heart of Florida’s internationally-acclaimed racehorse breeding industry to the detriment of their own constituents, longstanding Florida Thoroughbred and Quarter Horsemen described “Oxford Downs” as a “mockery” and a “Trojan Horse.”  To read their letters to the editor in today’s Ocala Star-Banner, click here.

National and regional organizations opposing the “South Marion/Oxford Downs” project have included the American Quarter Horse Association, the Jockey’s Guild, FHBPA, Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association, Florida Quarter Horse Breeders’ and Owners’ Association, Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association and Ocala Breeders’ Sales.  Membership in these organizations totals nearly 400,000 horsemen–accredited racehorse owners, trainers, jockeys and breeders worldwide.

After reportedly being physically intimidated with vehicles, and verbally menaced with arrest and other threats, officials from a major Florida horse racing industry group attempting to attend today’s public “South Marion/Oxford Downs” events were ordered to leave.

Below are hyperlinks to the South Marion Real Estate Holdings pari-mutuel license information.

Permitholder Application for Annual License and Operating Day SOUTH MARION REAL ESTATE HOLDINGS, LLC Primary 545
PM Operate Lic
Current
06/30/2014
                        Main Address*: PO BOX 650 OXFORD, FL 34484
Permit to Conduct Pari-Mutuel Wagering SOUTH MARION REAL ESTATE HOLDINGS, LLC Primary 545
PMW Permit
Current
                        Main Address*: PO BOX 650 OXFORD, FL 34484

No April Fool’s Joke—but the Phony South Marion Real Estate Holdings “Horse Racing” Will Be

Marion Gaming Management, Central Florida Gaming, Ft. Myers Real Estate Holdings

Check out the “facilities” at Florida’s newest “racetrack”

In the wake of Gretna “pari-mutuel barrel racing,” “flag-drops” and other contrived events designed to skirt Florida’s live racing requirements, another spurious pari-mutuel permit known as “South Marion Real Estate Holdings” [a.k.a. Central Florida Gaming, Marion Management and (prior to 2012) Ft. Myers Real Estate Holdings] has been granted yet another questionable racing license by the Florida Divison of Pari-Mutuel Wagering to conduct yet-unknown horse-related events.

Florida horse racing industry officials confirm the project is NOT Quarter Horse racing.  And it’s definitely NOT Thoroughbred racing, either.  Officials from five different professional horsemen’s associations representing nearly 10,000 racehorse owners, trainers and breeders will be present at the Marion County Commission at 9 a.m. tomorrow (April 1) to testify against the South Marion Real Estate Holdings project.

“No one really knows exactly what type of contrived horse activity the South Marion Real Estate Holdings project has been licensed to conduct, but we are certain that more phony activities will now take place as an excuse to allow another year ’round card room,” said Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (FHBPA) Executive Director Kent Stirling.  “It’s a good example of how unchecked gambling is expanding statewide at the direct expense of our lucrative horse racing industry.”

In 2012, an elderly horsemen was duped into renting his accredited American Quarter Horses for what he thought was a practice session under the auspices of the South Marion Real Estate Holdings pari-mutuel permit.   He reported seeing Florida regulators and law enforcement officials on hand at the event, which made him initially believe what he was doing was legitimate horse racing, but upon later consideration, he felt he had been misled.  To read the complete story as reported by Matt Hegarty of the Daily Racing Form, click here.

“This is about Florida continuing to allow pari-mutuel permitholders to sidestep Florida’s live racing requirements, regardless of the law, court rulings, the Florida horse racing industry’s billion-dollar annual economic impact and the tens of thousands of jobs it produces,” Stirling added.   “If your business depends on the Florida horse racing industry, you need to be present at this meeting tomorrow.”

According to Florida horse racing industry sources, despite the fact that “pari-mutuel barrel racing” was twice declared illegal by a court of law, the unknown horse-related competitive events will take place at the South Marion property in what appears to be a “bull ring” type structure with an adjacent modular trailer set up as a cardroom.

The American Quarter Horse Association and its Florida chapter, the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association (FQHRA) report that no one has contacted either organization in reference to the South Marion project to apply for accreditation as legitimate Quarter Horse racing.

The Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association issued a call to action today as well, with the following article providing additional detail on this urgent issue:

 

“Flimflam Fields”

BY DAVE ALLEN

www.FTBOA.com

“If you believe this is a racetrack, then I have some prime swampland in Florida to sell you.”

There is an oval of dirt that has been scratched out of the weeds of South Marion County, but the shape of it is the only thing that remotely resembles a “racetrack.”

Unlike most racetracks, this “track” has no grandstand, no bleachers, no concessions and the “facilities” leave a LOT to be desired. The “placing judges’ stand” hovering above the finish line could be confused for a children’s playhouse on stilts, while the remaining structures include a modular office trailer and a shack.

The track itself is surrounded by rigid wooden fences (instead of safety rails), negligible banking on the turns, and—perhaps a nod to the legendary racetracks of Europe—a hill on the backstretch. It might be the only horse track in America that demands its participants climb their way to the finish line.

With so little initial investment in building a real racetrack, it’s tough to see how further development would happen after a permit for a card room was issued.

So why do thoroughbred breeders and owners need to be concerned about the presence of a “bush” track in their own backyard?

Besides the poor facilities damaging the reputation of legitimate horse racing and dubious track conditions needlessly endangering the lives of horses and riders, this contrived form of racing will lower the standard for what is required to operate a racetrack. It will establish the bare minimum requirements a permit holder needs to meet in order to open a card room. If permitholders are allowed to open card rooms by offering bottom-level races for minimal purses at facilities that don’t promote horse racing, then horse owners and breeders can expect a diminishing value of their stallions, broodmares, and racehorses because the purse money won’t be there in the future.

It is suspected that the South Marion County facility is hurrying to hold a day of racing because the Florida Legislature is currently considering reforming the racing and gaming laws in the state. Many people believe that they are trying to hold a race day to ensure that this form of racing is grandfathered-in should a reform bill be passed into law.

The American Quarter Horse Association and the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association opposes the opening of this track, as well as the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association, the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company, and the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association.

Marion County is proud of the title “Horse Capital of the World”, and it deserves a racetrack that reflects the pride of the owners, breeders, and horsemen who produce champion race horses in the Sunshine State. Anything less than a first-class facility diminishes the strong reputation that we have worked so hard to build.

What can you do about it? Speak up!

The Board of County Commissioners for Marion County will be holding a 9 a.m. meeting on Tuesday, April 1, at the McPherson Complex Auditorium in Ocala. The Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association strongly encourages its members to attend this meeting and to sign-up to make a brief public comment in opposition to this track. Public comments are limited to two minutes.

Location:

McPherson Complex Auditorium
601 SE 25th Ave.
Ocala, Florida 33470

Don’t miss your chance to stand-up for legitimate horse racing!

 

 

If You Go Tomorrow:

 

Marion County Commission Meeting

McPherson Complex Auditorium
601 SE 25th Ave.
Ocala, Florida 33470

Click HERE for meeting information and LIVE Weblink

Click HERE to email the Marion County Commission to tell them what you think of PHONY HORSE RACING!

United Florida Horsemen Statement on Florida House Gaming Committee March 13 Meeting

March 13, 2014–United Florida Horsemen, a consortium of nearly 7,000 Florida Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred racehorse owners and trainers said about this morning’s Florida House Gaming Committee meeting:

“We look forward to continuing to educate our lawmakers on the billion-dollar economic impact of Florida’s internationally known horse racing industry.   We urge our legislators to seek the proper information on why decoupling would put our horsemen out of business—and their thousands of employees out of work.

If Florida is truly open for business, we must focus on fostering the thousands of existing horse racing small businesses that are already here–as well as those looking to come to Florida–by ensuring that our full schedules of racing days remain intact.  This will promote the same investment and very economic impact that lawmakers are earnestly trying to create.

To view a brochure on the Florida horse racing industry’s economic impact click here:  United Florida Horsemen Economic Impact Brochure 2-3-2014

For a video replay and meeting materials on this morning’s meeting, click here:  http://www.myfloridahouse.com/Sections/Committees/committeesdetail.aspx?TermId=85&CommitteeId=2776


www.FloridaHorsemen.com

 

Gambling Expanding Statewide Even As Florida Senate Gaming Committee Considers Proposed Bills Today

March 3, 2014–As the Florida Senate Gaming Committee begins deliberation on hundreds of pages of proposed new gambling and pari-mutuel laws at its meeting today, word of a strange construction project in South Marion County has the area near The Villages buzzing about whether the structure is a card room or a horse racetrack.

According to Florida horse racing industry sources, unknown horse-related competitive events will take place there on March 17, despite the fact that “pari-mutuel barrel racing” was twice declared illegal by a court of law.

Speaking on behalf of nearly 7,000 collective racehorse owners and trainers, Florida horse racing industry officials confirm the project is NOT Thoroughbred racing.  And it’s definitely NOT American Quarter Horse racing, either.

The American Quarter Horse Association and its Florida chapter, the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association (FQHRA) report that no one has contacted either organization in reference to the South Marion project to apply for accreditation as legitimate Quarter Horse racing.

“No one really knows exactly what type of contrived horse activity the South Marion project is intending to conduct.  We can only hope that more phony racing has not been used as an excuse to allow a year ’round card room,” said Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (FHBPA) Executive Director Kent Stirling.  “It’s a good example of how unchecked gambling is expanding statewide at the direct expense of Florida’s lucrative horse racing industry.”

In 2012, an elderly horsemen was duped into renting his American Quarter Horses for what he thought was a practice session under the auspices of the South Marion Real Estate Holdings pari-mutuel permit.   He reported seeing Florida regulators and law enforcement officials on hand at the event, which made him initially believe what he was doing was legitimate horse racing, but upon later consideration, he felt he had been misled.  To read the complete story as reported by Matt Hegarty of the Daily Racing Form, click here.

Representatives from both the FHBPA and FQHRA will attend the Senate Gaming Committee hearing, which begins today at 1:30 p.m. (ET).

“At stake are the many jobs created by our members, the vast majority of whom are small businesses,” Stirling said.  “We are substantially concerned with the ultimate outcome.”

To go directly to the Senate Gaming Committee Web page and meeting materials, click here.

To watch the hearing Webcast live, click here or go to www.TheFloridaChannel.org

To access the Senate Gaming Committee’s proposed bills, click here.

To read more about issues affecting Florida’s horse racing industry, go to www.FloridaHorsemen.com

“Pari-Mutuel Barrel Racing” Is An Unadopted Rule, Florida’s First District Court of Appeal Affirms

In a short opinion issued today, February 7, 2014, the First District Court of Appeal (“First DCA”) affirmed last year’s lower court ruling that Florida pari-mutuel regulators’ licensing of “pari-mutuel barrel racing” failed to follow proper rulemaking procedure.

To view the opinion, click HERE.

“ . . . the narrow issue in this case is whether the (Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering’s) policy of treating barrel match racing as an authorized form of quarter horse racing is an unadopted rule,” the First DCA judges wrote today.

“The irony is that, during the years of litigation on this case, the professional riders who actually compete in real barrel racing have come to learn that the empty promises made by ‘pari-mutuel barrel racing’ were not about promoting their sport, but about Gretna Racing LLC using them as a means to run a cardroom 365 days a year,” said Kent Stirling, Executive Director of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, a statewide organization comprising over 6,000 Thoroughbred owners and trainers that supported the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association in the litigation.

“The unfortunate aftermath of ‘pari-mutuel barrel racing’ is that the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering immediately pivoted and issued a license to Gretna for ‘flag drop racing’—another contrived event conjured up for the same exploitative purpose,” Stirling added.   “The collateral damage for this and other statewide misuses of American Quarter Horse pari-mutuel permits is that the State of Florida cannot fully realize the immense positive economic benefit that legitimate horse racing actually brings.”

Hialeah Park, the only venue in Florida that hosts AQHA-accredited American Quarter Horse racing under the stewardship of the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association, has seen record crowds and growing wagering handle each year.

“This case is not about the merits of one sport over another,” explained Trey Buck, Executive Director of Racing for the American Quarter Horse Association.  “It’s about following the rules.  The fact is, legitimate American Quarter Horse racing is a proven economic driver nationwide.  By ensuring AQHA accreditation of American Quarter Horse racing, the State of Florida can be assured it is not only maximizing the revenue-generation of its pari-mutuel permits, but ensuring the integrity and safety of the events for fans and participants alike.”

About the American Quarter Horse Association

AQHA is the world’s largest breed registry and equine organization with its international headquarters located in Amarillo, TX.

AQHA issues and maintains the pedigrees, registration and performance records of American Quarter Horses.  AQHA also promulgates rules and regulations that govern AQHA-approved events and competition including competition involving the pari-mutuel racing of American Quarter Horses and the showing of American Quarter Horses.

The AQHA rules and regulations that govern the pari-mutuel racing of American Quarter Horses are contained in the Racing Rules and Regulations section of the AQHA Official Handbook of Rules & Regulations.  AQHA does not recognize barrel racing as a pari-mutuel racing event.  Instead, barrel racing is considered a “show” event and as such is governed by the show rules and regulations set forth in Show and Performance sections of the AQHA Official Handbook of Rules & Regulations.

While rules of Racing Authorities take precedence, AQHA, for purposes of AQHA records and programs, reserves the right to deny or revoke recognition of a race which does not observe the rules and regulations contained herein. American Quarter Horse racing is defined as two or more American Quarter Horses registered with the American Quarter Horse Association, entered and competing in the same race at the same time from a regulation starting gate, at distances and conditions recognized by AQHA and running at full speed, unimpeded by obstacles, thru a common finish line.

In short, AQHA supports both types of disciplines as competition for American Quarter Horses.  Horse racing is conducted on a traditional oval racetrack covering distances between 110 and 1,000 yards without obstacles.  Barrel racing is an individually timed contest conducted in a pen or arena running around 3 evenly spaced barrels or obstacles.

 

Horse Racing’s Dragsters Flocking to Florida’s Frontier . . . Will Florida Be Ready For Business?

American Quarter Horse racing at Hialeah Park

“Florida legislators should realize we are running big businesses.”

Great success has a funny way of riling folks up.  But to those used to winning, it doesn’t much matter, anyhow.  They just keep their eye on the goal.

For a seasoned set of executives who have targeted Florida as ripe for expanding the high-octane world of American Quarter Horse Racing, that goal is well in range now that their business at Hialeah Park is booming.

Monumental, storied, nearly a century old and steeped in old-guard tradition, Hialeah Park is looking a whole lot different lately since the equine equivalent of drag racing has moved in.

These days, if you want to find the money crowd at Hialeah, look for the cowboy hats and Western belt buckles—attire favored by not only the Midwestern and North Florida executives drawn to Florida’s resurging Quarter Horse racing scene, but also by their Hispanic counterparts who fervently share their passion. So zealous are the fans, they mirror the racehorses’ explosive, blinding dashes down the Hialeah homestretch—dramatically different than their Thoroughbred counterparts—which are long-distance runners more comparable to NASCAR.

Accredited American Quarter Horse racing at Hialeah Park draws a markedly active, diverse and highly engaged crowd infused with new energy and enthusiasm, thanks to the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association (FQHRA)—the Florida arm of the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA), an international organization of nearly 350,000 members in 14 different countries.

Like a more potent version of the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, the AQHA sets the standardized rules of accredited Quarter Horse racing to ensure product integrity for the wagering public, and safety for the participating animals and horsemen.  So stringent and exacting are the AQHA standards, Florida law defers to its collective years of experience to oversee statewide regulation through the FQHRA’s statutory work.  Both organizations are trusted by industry investors to ensure a proper environment in which to do business.

“The fact that we would jump on an airplane just to attend an FQHRA Board meeting says a whole lot about what we think the potential is for Florida’s AQHA-accredited Quarter Horse racing market,” explained Ben Hudson, the 40-year publisher of Quarter Horse Track Magazine—one of the sport’s foremost publications.  Hudson is one of the newest members of the FQHRA Board–a collection of horsemen from around the United States who have seen a thing or two in their lifetime.

After watching the FQHRA’s growth and carefully evaluating Florida’s market potential, Gary Walker, an AQHA trainer and former racetrack executive with college professor credentials, joined Hudson among the new Board recruits this year, along with veteran horseman Butch Wise, who has managed the Lazy E Ranch–one of the nation’s largest, most successful racehorse breeding operations–for over 20 years.

An AQHA director for the past 30 years, Hudson brings with him the burning memories of Florida’s Quarter Horse racing glory days when “ . . . some very important old Florida guys were also very important in the AQHA.”

Back then, large Central Florida ranchers and landowners were instrumental in developing Florida’s accredited Quarter Horse racing market, which grew very successful, very fast.

The youngest member of the FQHRA Board, Walker sometimes gets morose when politics get too thick.  Whether it’s a Tallahassee legislative brawl, a litigation fiasco or an argument among fellow horsemen, dealing with the figurative mano-a-mano that horse racing law and regulation tends to spawn all boils down to less time that he and his colleagues can spend on growing their business.

Back home in Oklahoma, Walker also serves on the Board of the Oklahoma Quarter Horse Racing Association—an FQHRA sister organization that also includes people who have long understood that American Quarter Horse Racing isn’t a weekend fancy.  It’s a way of life and often a family business.  As evidence, while Walker competes his 24-horse public/private stable at Hialeah Park, his mother, assisted by his children, takes care of 60 more horses back in Oklahoma.

But lately, even in Oklahoma—an enlightened, established state when it comes to the economic benefits of American Quarter Horse Racing—the casino industry seems to influence every aspect of the horse racing conversation, Walker laments.

In Texas, the largest-Quarter Horse-producing state in the nation, breeding farms are multi-million dollar full-time employers.  And yet, accredited Quarter Horse racing and its backbone breeding industry still works overtime to garner respect its popularity and revenue generating capacity should warrant.

If there’s one thing he wants Florida lawmakers to know about accredited Quarter Horse Racing, is that the industry goes far beyond the visual surface of the horses at the racetrack.  It extends to the breeding farm and ancillary enterprises that service and benefit from a typical race meet, including tourism, transportation and real estate.

“We’re not a bunch of weekend warriors,” Walker emphasizes.  “Florida legislators should realize we are running big businesses.”

But the problem in educating lawmakers about the horse racing industry lies in the very infrastructure and daily routines of its myriad businesses.  By 5 a.m., seven days a week, most horsemen are already at work and finishing their most intense training hours by the time most office workers are just pulling into their downtown parking spaces.

“The problem with the horse industry is that we’re invisible because we’re often dispersed throughout the state, and in rural locations,” explained Butch Wise.  “Unlike Disney World, you can’t just drive in and count the number of cars in the employee parking lot.  In a typical racetrack barn area, there are hundreds of people working there, but you don’t all see them in the same place all day long.”

Indeed, one accredited Texas farm with 60 full-time employees bred 1,800 mares last year.  Breeding fees start at $2,500, with the higher stallions commanding $35,000 a pop.  Assuming an average stud fee of $5,000, farms like these can turn millions of dollars of business annually.

But that’s not where it ends.  Syndication deals produce eye-popping price tags like a recent $12 million stallion who commanded $300,000 for each of his 40 shares.

Wise points to a 2012 Oklahoma study that found accredited Quarter Horse racing has a $3.2 billion dollar annual statewide economic impact there.  Last year, his own Oklahoma farm saw traffic of more than 2,600 horses, 1,200 mares of which were also bred on the premises, and others that even originated overseas.  Together, they ate more than 800 tons of hay during the same time period, among the many other expenses and staffing required to run the operation.

“That’s the kind of business that can be developed in Florida,” Walker says.

And the demand for accredited racing Quarter Horse “dragsters” is international in scope.  The AQHA advantage?  More modern rules that include artificial insemination allow stallions’ semen to be shipped anywhere, while enabling breeders to still qualify to bring their horses to participate in lucrative racing program bonuses like Florida’s.  For state economies, it’s literally a seed that keeps on growing.

“Our elected officials need to know that anything to do with horses takes years.  It’s like trying to turn the Queen Mary on a dime,” Wise explained.  “But the hurdles are being eroded and we’ve already established high class racing in Florida.  People are noticing and starting to participate.”

Not surprisingly, the FQHRA Board and its membership have a business plan to develop the industry statewide.

With counsel from Board members like Hudson, Walker and Wise, coupled with input from AQHA veterans who have seen the best and surmounted worst that politics has levied on accredited Quarter Horse racing in states across America, they are executing a clear course designed to propel Florida to national greatness in the American Quarter Horse Racing industry.

“An accredited Florida-bred stands for quality,” says Dr. Steve Fisch, the FQHRA President.  “Our horsemen are already getting the best mares and stallions in the country to compete in a forward-thinking Florida program designed to grow Florida business.”

“By working with an established, respected organization like the AQHA and its local chapters like FQHRA, legislators and regulators can be assured they have people representing the horsemen who have the experience of actual skin in the game.  More than anything, that will ensure integrity while growing the industry,” Wise said.

Remember those old Florida guys?  They’re still around.  And the last five years of FQHRA racing at Hialeah Park has stoked their fraying hopes, big time.

“Those horsemen who have survived still want to do this, even though they haven’t had racing in Florida for 20 years,” explains Hudson.  Now the next generation of Quarter Horsemen feels it, too.

“Florida is the ‘new’ old frontier,” Walker says.  “I feel like this is the place of the future, especially for young guys like myself trying to make it in this world.”

Bolstered by a lifetime of experience, Wise is even more confident.   “I can assure you that if elected officials support accredited Quarter Horse racing, there will never be a time they’ll be sorry, because the returns for Florida will be huge.”

“No one wants to be a pioneer, because they’re worried they might get hit with a few arrows.  But if you wait until the fort is built, you may find yourself behind the curve,” he said.  “It’s important to get on board now.”

 

www.FQHRA.com

Economic Boom Time At Hialeah Park as FQHRA-Accredited Quarter Horse Racing Thrives! 2013-2014 Season Begins November 29!

Something To Be Thankful For:  REAL Florida Quarter Horse Racing!

Hialeah Park’s fifth consecutive FQHRA meet has been described as its most successful and ambitious undertaking to date, and the upcoming 40-day program “ . . . will prove that Hialeah Park is a serious player and is working hard to establish a position of prominence in North American Quarter Horse racing,” Hialeah Park Owner and Chairman of the Board John J. Brunetti Sr. explained.

For weeks now, America’s biggest, most prestigious and successful Quarter Horse racing stables have been loading in to Miami-Dade’s famed Hialeah Park for its Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association (FQHRA)-sanctioned 2013-2014 winter racing meet that begins this Friday, November 29.

Accredited Quarter Horsemen From Across America Clamoring To Compete at Hialeah Park’s Fifth Consecutive Successful Quarter Horse Racing Season

For weeks now, America’s biggest, most prestigious and successful Quarter Horse racing stables have been loading in to Miami-Dade’s famed Hialeah Park for its Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association (FQHRA)-sanctioned 2013-2014 winter racing meet that begins this Friday, November 29.

Through the FQHRA’s stewardship, the vibrance and pageantry of Florida horse racing will be broadcast internationally throughout the United States and across three separate continents on a daily basis.

“We’ve got all our 830 stalls full, I’ve got some horsemen on hold, I’ve got others stabled at nearby training facilities, and even more who want to come,” Hialeah Park Racing Secretary Matt Crawford effused.

A former Texas horse racing official, Crawford has been busy recruiting accredited Quarter Horse racing stables and top trainers for the meet since he was hired by Hialeah Park earlier this year. “Our bigger stables are all coming back:  Donnie Strickland, Charlton Hunt, Judd Kearl, Brandon Muniz, Gary Walker, Alfredo Gomez, Ron David and Matt Frazier,” he said. “And most of them are bringing more horses.”

Indeed . . . horses, horses and more horses was the reason most cited by local area businesses as their biggest economic boost during Hialeah’s last season, as FQHRA-accredited horsemen rushed to hire enough employees to care for their high-dollar, high-powered racehorses, and scrambled for food, lodging, meals, equipment, gas and other supplies to carry them through the next several months of doing business in South Florida.

Hialeah Park’s fifth consecutive FQHRA meet has been described as its most successful and ambitious undertaking to date, and the upcoming 40-day program “ . . . will prove that Hialeah Park is a serious player and is working hard to establish a position of prominence in North American Quarter Horse racing,” Hialeah Park Owner and Chairman of the Board John J. Brunetti Sr. explained.

During the live racing season, Hialeah Park will also be open for simulcast wagering seven days a week, day and night. Available simulcast tracks include Betfair Hollywood Park, Santa Anita, Gulfstream Park, and many others.  To view the dozens of nationwide and international outlets that will be broadcasting Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association competition on a daily basis, click here.

The FQHRA is the Florida Chapter of the American Quarter Horse Association, an international organization of nearly 350,000 members that regulates and sanctions accredited Quarter Horse racing (or “Q-Racing”) to ensure that animal welfare and integrity remain paramount to produce a quality racing product.

AQHA-accredited Quarter Horse racing annually produces thousands of sanctioned races that amounted in 2012 to $131.5 million in purse money.  Accredited Quarter Horse racing generated more than $300 million in wagering at U.S. racetracks in 2012.

For More Information About the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association, go to:

www.FQHRA.com

Economic Boom Time In South Florida as FQHRA-Accredited  Quarter Horse Racing Thrives at Hialeah Park

Florida Horsemen to Testify at Pensacola, Jacksonville Senate Gaming Committee Hearings This Week

Florida Horse Racing, Florida Thoroughbred Racing, Florida Quarter Horse Racing

Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse Racehorse Owner, Trainer and Breeder Representatives to Speak at Both November 14 and 15 Hearings

Leadership representatives from Florida’s most prominent racehorse owners, trainers and breeders associations will be on hand to testify at both Florida Senate Gaming Committee public hearings this week, Thursday, November 14 in Pensacola, and Friday, November 15 in Jacksonville.

Scheduled to speak at both hearings is Teresa Palmer, a Board member of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (FHBPA), as well as a member of the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association.  She will represent Thoroughbred owners, trainers and breeders.

At the November 15 Jacksonville hearing, Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association Board Member John Shaw will address the panel of lawmakers.   Mr. Shaw also represents the Florida Quarter Horse Breeders’ and Owners’ Association.  Both Quarter Horse organizations are part of the American Quarter Horse Association, an international organization of over 350,000 members.

“The fact that these two individuals have the degree of involvement in the Florida horse racing industry they do is a good indicator of just how far-reaching our economic impact is,” explained FHBPA Executive Director Kent Stirling.  “Our goal is to convey that to our legislators as they contemplate the implications of future public policy on our members’ businesses and their employees.”

To view the complete list of speakers and agenda for the November 14 Pensacola hearing, click HERE.

To view the complete list of speakers and agenda for the November 15 Jacksonville hearing, click HERE.

Both hearings will be Webcast LIVE on www.TheFloridaChannel.org and on the Florida Senate video page at www.flsenate.gov/Media/#broadcast

Florida Thoroughbred Breeding Industry CEO Speaks at Senate Gaming Committee Today After Florida-Bred “Mucho Macho Man’s” Weekend Victory in Horse Racing Super Bowl

Florida Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association CEO Testifies Before the Florida Senate Gaming Committee

FTBOA’s Lonny Powell: “Thoroughbred people with major investments in the industry don’t like being treated like potted plants”

Less than 48 hours after a thrilling victory in the Super Bowl of Thoroughbred racing by Florida-bred horse “Mucho Macho Man,” the CEO of Florida’s Thoroughbred breeding industry will speak before the Florida Senate Gaming Committee at its third public hearing on the Spectrum Gaming Study today, November 4.

Lonny Powell, a former horse racing regulator now CEO of the powerful Florida Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association, works closely with the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (Florida Thoroughbred owners and trainers, “FHBPA”), the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association and the Florida Quarter Horse Breeders and Owners Association on legislative and regulatory issues affecting the groups statewide.

“It’s fitting that Lonny speak to our Senators today, right on the heels of a Florida-bred having won the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic this weekend–the Super Bowl of Thoroughbred racing,” said FHBPA Executive Director Kent Stirling.  “Were it any other sport, today would be a day warranting a ticker-tape parade in Tallahassee, over which Lonny would be appropriately presiding as Grand Marshal.”

Powell is scheduled to speak today during the Florida Senate Gaming Committee public hearing in Tallahassee, the third edition of which drew a much smaller slate of speakers than the previous hearings.  To view the list of speakers, click here.

“It’s time for Florida’s elected officials to recognize our horse racing and breeding industry–an engine that moves enormous sums of money and commerce throughout the world–with Florida’s agribusiness backbone providing jobs and fueling business well beyond the substantially more limited promise of a casino-only scenario,” Stirling explained.

Today’s hearing runs from noon until 3 p.m. and will be webcast live on www.TheFloridaChannel.org.

Mucho Macho Man, who was bred at Adena Springs South in Ocala, garnered major worldwide media acclaim on behalf of his birth state of Florida.  Some of the headlines are below:

Washington Post:  Mucho Macho Man holds on to win Breeders’ Cup Classic in photo finish

USA Today:  Breeders’ Cup Classic win caps magic month for Mucho Macho Man

Chicago Tribune:  Mucho Macho Man gives trainer a win to savour

ESPN:  Mucho Macho Man wins by nose

Florida’s Thoroughbred, Quarter Horsemen Draw Praise for Unity At Today’s Pari-Mutuel Regulatory Hearing

October 16, 2013–The coalition of horse racing owners, trainers and breeders on hand for today’s Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering rule hearing in Broward County drew praise and recognition from others in attendance who noted the unification among Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse and even some racetrack facility interests in advocating for a cleanup of Florida’s horse racing rules.

Packed into a cramped, hot room for a hearing that was originally scheduled to last the entire day, a “who’s who” of Florida horsemen and statewide representatives from various pari-mutuel factions commented on the proposed rules in an orderly, upbeat manner that belied ongoing tensions among them stemming from the past several years of regulatory havoc.  While many lauded the new rules as a long overdue basis for change, others warned of protracted lawsuits that could erupt from their various nuances.

The hearing concluded in approximately an hour and a half, with most speakers indicating they would provide written copies of their respective suggestions and comments to Division officials later on.

Precipitating today’s hearing, wildly variant interpretations of Florida horse racing law have freely proliferated during the past several years—particularly to the detriment of legitimate, accredited Quarter Horse racing as sanctioned by the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association (FQHRA).

“We definitely think today’s workshop represents a positive forward step by the Division toward ensuring the integrity and stability of Florida horse racing for all breeds–a multi-billion dollar industry with a bright and profitable future as noted by legislative consultants this month during the Florida House and Senate gaming hearings.” said Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (FHBPA) Executive Director Kent Stirling, whose organization represents some 6,000 Thoroughbred owners and trainers statewide.  “We look forward to working with the Division to lend our national industry knowledge and expertise.”

Today’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering regulatory hearing—the first in a series of planned events by the agency—took place in advance of a legislative workshop series being held by the Florida Senate Gaming Committee to receive public input on the recent Spectrum Gaming Study.  The series begins on October 23 in Coconut Creek.

Hyperlinks to the proposed Rules reviewed today are listed below:

61D-2.024 Track General Rules
61D-2.025 Race General Rules
61D-2.026 Jai Alai Game General Rules
61D-2.027 Performances
61D-2.028 Jockey Requirements
61D-2.029 Qualifications of Horses to Start

 

 

 

 

 

Rectifying Past Florida Pari-Mutuel Regulatory Wrongs A Step in the Right Direction, Horsemen Say

Given  the imminent final phase of the Florida Legislature’s highly anticipated gaming study, how proposed new pari-mutuel rules might factor into future policymaking is unknown, but Florida’s horsemen agree that recent developments on both the regulatory and legislative fronts have horse racing industry leaders feeling somewhat hopeful.

Statewide, racehorse owners, trainers and breeders will be watching closely this Monday, September 23, 2013, as the Florida Senate Gaming Committee holds its first interim meeting from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. in Tallahassee.

At Monday’s meeting, Senators will meet to discuss the format and schedule for a series of four (4) public workshops scheduled around the state to review a study conducted by Spectrum Gaming Inc. on Florida’s gaming industry and its economic effects.   They will also review Part 1 of the Spectrum study, parts of which with horsemen have concerns.

“There’s no denying that the laws and rules surrounding horse racing are complex,” said Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association Executive Director Kent Stirling, whose organization represents nearly 6,000 independent Thoroughbred horse owners and trainers.   “But we definitely feel that some of the statements in Part 1 of the Spectrum Study could use clarification—for instance, citing declines in paid attendance when, in fact, there has been no paid attendance at Florida horse tracks in years.”

The Gaming Committee’s first public workshop on the Spectrum Study takes place on October 23 in Coconut Creek at Broward College North Campus from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Regulatory Hearings on New Horse Racing Rules Begin Just Days Earlier

But just days earlier on October 16—also in Broward County (Ft. Lauderdale)—the first of a series of regulatory hearings held by the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering will also take place.  Public comment will be allowed on a slate of proposed new horse racing Rules—many of which seem to address heretofore wildly variant interpretations of Florida horse racing law that have freely proliferated during the past several  years—particularly to the detriment of legitimate, accredited Quarter Horse racing as sanctioned by the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association (FQHRA).

“While we’re not yet sure how the Division’s rulemaking might dovetail with any findings and legislation filed by the Senate Gaming Committee, Florida’s horsemen definitely think our regulators are moving in the right direction—back toward normalcy, with respect to Florida’s hard-earned acclaim in the global horse racing community,” said FQHRA President Dr. Steve Fisch, whose organization represents the Florida arm of the powerful American Quarter Horse Association.

“Horsemen are ready to work with the Division to ensure aberrations like six-foot tall, 200-pound wranglers dressed in dungarees and t-shirts are no longer allowed to pass for ‘jockeys’ in Florida—as has been the case,” Stirling added.  “It’s been a protracted insult to legitimate jockeys—some of the finest, most courageous and accomplished professional athletes in all of sports—and many of whom choose Florida as their annual headquarters.”

“Horsemen are ready to support our regulators in what we hope will be a new day toward legitimacy, profitability for our members and a proper return on horse racing’s positive economic impact,” Fisch said.

For more information about issues affecting Florida horsemen, go to:  www.FloridaHorsemen.com

As Florida Senate Spectrum Gaming Study Hearings Begin, Independent Horsemen Who Put on the Show Remind Lawmakers Their Interests Must be Separately Considered

With the Florida Senate Gaming Committee set to hold its first interim meeting this Monday (September 23) before commencing a series of public workshops next month (the first is October 23 in Coconut Creek), the professional horsemen of Florida’s horse racing industry seek to remind legislators and others that they—and often their interests–are independent of pari-mutuel permitholders and their casino corporate owners.

“The term ‘horsemen’ designates those men and women who are either racehorse owners, trainers or breeders,” explained Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association Executive Director Kent Stirling, whose organization represents nearly 6,000 independent Thoroughbred owners or trainers, all of whom individually operate thousands of businesses—most staffed with full-time employees.

“Horsemen are those individuals, businesses and their employees who make the costly investment of time and money to get a young horse ready to race,” added Dr. Steve Fisch, President of the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association—the Florida arm of the American Quarter Horse Association.  “We are the professionals who shoulder the task of breeding, raising, nurturing and ultimately maintaining that horse during its racing career.  We put on the horse racing show from which tracks profit.   Essentially, horsemen supply the figurative ‘gasoline’ that runs the horse racing ‘engine’”

“It’s often mistakenly assumed that horsemen’s interests always coincide with those of pari-mutuel permitholders.  Sometimes they do—but other times, they simply don’t,” Stirling said.  “In crafting any future pari-mutuel laws and regulations, that’s an important point for our policymakers to remember.  So important, in fact, that horsemen’s rights have long been protected by both state and federal law.”

Also defined as horsemen are members of the venerable Ocala-based Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association, who power the state’s internationally acclaimed horse breeding industry, along with another statutory organization–the Florida Quarter Horse Breeders’ and Owners’ Association—which is growing in size as legitimate Quarter Horse racing has gained exponential popularity at Hialeah Park, despite the scourge of imposter events staged by various rogue North Florida permitholders during the past few years.

As Senators begin their statewide public workshops on the results of the final phase of the Spectrum Gaming Study, united advocates from Florida’s horse racing professional organizations will be on hand throughout the entire process to ensure that horsemen’s interests are well-defined and vigorously represented.

Florida Pari-Mutuel Regulation Overhaul, Legislative Gaming Study To Be Held Concurrently; Horse Racing Industry Wonders About End-Game, Dara Kam Reports

Post by Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association.

Horsemen and just about everyone else are wondering what’s the deal with the proposed new #Florida horse racing rule overhaul announced last week–and its surprise scheduling smack in the face of the coming (but completely separate) legislative hearings for the same purpose??  Dara Kam reports for The News Service of Florida that the proposed Rules are making just about everyone–even the bad actors, #casino lawyers and dungaree-donned “flag-drop” phony “jockeys”–scratch their heads. #FHBPA‘s Kent Stirling tells Dara in the article that, if regulators are trying to help, they have a funny way of communicating it. “There’s this thing called the phone,” he said. Under the new proposals, for example, races wouldn’t count if a certain number of horses scratch, and horses would have to post at least 10 published workouts before being allowed to start. Click below to read the complete story via Sunshine State News

http://www.sunshinestatenews.com/story/new-rules-odds-some-gambling-industry

#horseracing#parimutuel#Thoroughbred,#QuarterHorse,

#SpectrumGaming#FloridaLegislature,#FloridaSenate,

#Standardbred,#FloridaGambling#FTBOA#FQHRA,

#AQHA#TOBA,#Calder#HialeahPark#GulfstreamPark,

#TampaBayDowns#Ocala#Tampa#SouthFlorida,#MiamiDade,

#Broward#PalmBeach#PaysonPark,#NorthFlorida #Orlando

Florida’s Racing Industry Horsemen Urge to Complete Economic Impact Survey; Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse Professionals Unite

Independent Results will be Presented to the Florida Legislature

  • Link to Survey Below

To ensure that the impact of Florida’s horse racing industry professionals is well represented as the Florida Legislature conducts a first-ever comprehensive evaluation of pari-mutuel and gaming laws, Florida’s horsemen have united to conduct their own study of how their collective businesses and jobs converge to keep Florida’s economy humming.

The Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association and the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association–two of Thoroughbred racing’s top consortiums of owners, trainers and breeders–have joined with the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association and Florida Quarter Horse Breeders’ and Owners’ Association to produce the study, which they plan to present to the Florida Legislature as lawmakers deliberate future policy direction.

Each organization is currently urging its members to complete the study’s survey, the results of which will be used to create the final report.  To complete the survey, go to:   https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/FLRacingImpact

“Just this week, Kentucky’s horse industry reported that it produces a $3 billion dollar annual economic impact,” said FHBPA Executive Director Kent Stirling, who represents some 6,000 Florida Thoroughbred owners and trainers.  “For years, Florida has ranked right along with Kentucky among the top three states as economic drivers in the industry—there’s a reason Ocala is known as the ‘Horse Capital of the World’ and South Florida is hailed as the road to the Kentucky Derby.”

The Ocala-based FTBOA is also working to get the word out to its members, many of who handle multi-million-dollar international Thoroughbred breeding sales and operations.

The American Horse Council conducted the most recent comparable survey in 2005, which revealed that Florida’s horse racing industry has a $2.2 billion dollar annual economic impact and results in 104,000 full-time annual jobs created.

Spectrum Gaming, a private company with casino affiliations, was a controversial selection from among seven vendors earlier this year by the Florida Legislature to conduct a public study of Florida’s gaming and pari-mutuel economic, fiscal and social impact.

The final portion of Spectrum’s study results is scheduled to be released on October 1, 2013.

 

#Florida, #horseracing, #Thoroughbred, #QuarterHorse, #SpectrumGaming, #FloridaLegislature, #FloridaGaming, #FloridaSenate, #FloridaHouse, #parimutuel, #Standardbred, #FloridaGambling, #FTBOA, #FQHRA, #AQHA, #TOBA, #Calder, #HialeahPark, #GulfstreamPark, #TampaBayDowns, #Ocala, #Tampa, #SouthFlorida, #MiamiDade, #Broward, #PalmBeach, #PalmMeadowns, #PaysonPark, #NorthFlorida, #Orlando

Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering October 16 Rule Workshop Takes Florida Horsemen By Surprise, Miami Herald’s Mary Ellen Klas Reports

Miami Herald

 

 

The Miami Herald’s Mary Ellen Klas reported today that a surprise announcement on an October 16, 2013 hearing by the #Florida Division of #PariMutuel #Wagering blindsided the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, which has successfully joined forces with the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association to battle the agency in court over its decision to designate “barrel match racing” as a parimutuel sport, among other issues.

“The FHPBA was surprised to see the Division’s announcement today,” said #FHBPA Executive Director Kent Stirling. “We’re still in the process of reviewing the proposed Rule text, which appears to have already been drafted.”

To read the entire story, click on the link below (includes today’s complete news release from the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering):

http://miamiherald.typepad.com/nakedpolitics/2013/09/after-months-of-holding-together-a-patchwork-quilt-of-regulations-over-the-states-gaming-industry-the-florida-division-of-pa.html

The FHBPA learned today, September 6, 2013, that the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering scheduled a comprehensive day-long rulemaking workshop for October 16, 2013 on a slate of technical regulations relating to pari-mutuels, including horse racing.

The October 16 workshop is scheduled to take place in Ft. Lauderdale as the first in a series of statewide regulatory hearings, the Division announced.

To view the proposed Rules and meeting information, click here.

Meanwhile, the Florida Legislature is in process of reviewing Florida’s gaming and pari-mutuel laws and has commissioned a private company, Spectrum Gaming, to conduct a study.  The Spectrum study–the final segment of which is due October 1, 2013–is expected to provide Florida lawmakers with a basis for crafting legislative policy going forward.  Before today’s surprise Division announcement, statewide legislative hearings were planned.

“Given that on January 4, 2012, a slate of rules relating to Thoroughbred racing technicalities were repealed, we need to make a thorough analysis of what’s going on,” Stirling said.

#horseracing, #FloridaPolitics, #FloridaLegislature, #SpectrumGaming, #Floridagambling, #TampaBayDowns, #GulfstreamPark, #HialeahPark, #Calder, #Thoroughbred, #QuarterHorse, #Ocala, #Tampa, #Jacksonville, #Tallahassee, #Orlando, #Naples, #MiamiDade, #Broward, #PalmBeach, #Volusia, #FloridaHorse, #FTBOA

Denial of Gretna-Related Florida Pari-Mutuel Permit Reveals Origins of Phony Horse Racing Network

Ft. Meyers Real Estate Holdings, a company for which Romanik is listed as an officer and registered agent, first attempted to secure a Gretna-like permit in Lee County (southwest Florida), then in Miami-Dade County, and then in Florida City (near Homestead).   Just one month before issuing the 2011 Gretna racing license, the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering lost a battle over Romanik’s legal fees in Ft. Meyers Real Estate Holdings, LLC v. Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering (DOAH Case No. 11-1722FC)

The activities of former Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer were detailed in a court ruling on Ft. Myers Real Estate Holdings, a would-be pari-mutuel permit sought by Gretna Racing LLC co-owner David Romanik.

THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA’S Dara Kam reported this week on the denial of a Florida pari-mutuel permit to Ft. Myers Real Estate Holdings.  The subject litigation has been spearheaded by David Romanik, who is also a co-owner of Gretna Racing LLC, a North Florida pari-mutuel licensee that continues to hold contrived “flag drop” contests, despite a scathing court ruling declaring events such as “pari-mutuel barrel racing” to be illegal.

Ft. Meyers Real Estate Holdings, a company for which Romanik is listed as an officer and registered agent, first attempted to secure a Gretna-like permit in Lee County (southwest Florida), then in Miami-Dade County, and then in Florida City (near Homestead).   Just one month before issuing the 2011 Gretna racing license, the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering lost a battle over Romanik’s legal fees in Ft. Meyers Real Estate Holdings, LLC v. Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering (DOAH Case No. 11-1722FC)

To read the entire August 6, 2013 Ft. Meyers ruling, click here.

Kam’s investigative report (reprinted below) illuminates the “tangled web of relationships among gambling lobbyists, regulators and politicians”—such as the now-incarcerated Jim Greer—involved in the network of pari-mutuel permits under which phony horse racing continues to be licensed and perpetrated in Florida.

The ouster of longtime Florida pari-mutuel regulator Dave Roberts was explained this week in Kam’s story was preceded by Mary Ellen Klas’ 2012 Miami Herald report detailing the departure of then-Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering Director Milton Champion, who refused to approve Gretna’s “pari-mutuel barrel racing” in 2011.

Champion said he was subsequently asked to resign by Florida Governor Rick Scott’s then-Chief of Staff Steve Mcnamera—who was employed in 2009 by then-Pennington, Moore, Wilkinson, Bell & Dunbar, the same firm at which Marc Dunbar–another Gretna co-owner–worked.  Dunbar, a lawyer/lobbyist, was also involved in the Ft. Meyers Real Estate Holdings saga as an expert witness.  To access the Pennington bill to Romanik for legal work in the 2011 Ft. Myers case, click here.

Jim Greer tried to get gambling regulator fired, News Service of Florida reports

Submitted by Matt Dixon of the Florida Times-Union on August 19, 2013 in PolitiJax

By DARA KAM
THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA

www.NewsServiceFlorida.com

Former Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer, on the payroll of a South Florida dog track, tried to get a gambling regulator fired two days before the veteran state worker was forced to resign, according to court records obtained by The News Service of Florida.

Greer is now serving an 18-month sentence in federal prison after pleading guilty to money laundering and theft in connection with a scheme in which he created a company and then steered party business to it.

But while Greer — hand-picked by former Gov. Charlie Crist to head the state GOP —was party chairman in 2009, he was also working for the owners of the Mardi Gras Casino in Broward County, getting paid $7,500 a month as a consultant for entertainment and hospitality regulatory issues.

Four years later, gambling operators are still jockeying over lucrative pari-mutuel permits even as the Legislature explores how much — and what types of — gambling the state should allow.

A case involving the quest for a quarter-horse permit near Homestead, which could open the door for more slot machines in South Florida, demonstrates a tangled web of the relationships between gambling lobbyists, regulators and politicians.

The company Greer was working for was one of the “three loudest voices” opposing South Florida quarter-horse permits, according to Florida Administrative Law Judge R. Bruce McKibben.

McKibben in an Aug. 6 recommended order said the Department of Business and Professional Regulation didn’t do anything wrong by denying a permit to Ft. Myers Real Estate Holdings, a company trying to get the permit for the venue in Florida City, near Homestead. The permit, if issued, would allow a card room and possibly slot machines. Marc Dunbar, a lawyer who represented the Ft. Myers group, said it plans to appeal McKibben’s ruling.

But the court documents and interviews with the players reveal a marked shift in the state’s handling of permits after Chuck Drago, Greer’s close friend and godfather of his oldest son, became secretary of the agency and after long-time DBPR Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering Director Dave Roberts was ousted.

Critics, including Drago’s deputy secretary Scott Ross, accused Roberts of issuing the quarter horse permits “like candy.”

Within a week after Greer demanded that Roberts be fired, Drago ordered Ross to terminate the regulator, Ross testified in the case.

Drago denies being asked by Greer to get rid of Roberts, targeted by South Florida tracks angry over the quarter- horse permits and other issues.

“Nobody asked me to have Dave Roberts leave. That never happened,” Drago said.

But Delmar Johnson, former executive director of the RPOF under Greer, said his old boss had “unfettered access” to Drago, who served as police chief in Oviedo while Greer was a city commissioner prior to becoming the GOP chairman. Greer also had access to Crist and his top two aides.

On July 14, 2009, Greer and Johnson met with Ross — Johnson’s fraternity brother — at Po’ Boys, a bistro close to RPOF headquarters in downtown Tallahassee frequented by Greer and his gang.

After the lunch, Greer took Ross aside and directed him to “fire your pari-mutuel director,” Ross told The News Service of Florida.

Ross, who had been on the job less than two months, said he refused. But Greer insisted, saying, “I’ve heard really bad things about him and he needs to go,” according to Ross.

Ross said he had no idea Greer, who never registered as a lobbyist for Hartman and Tyner, Mardi Gras’ owner, was working for the dog track and slots venue at the time.

“Do I have an idea now why that ask was made? I can connect the dots,” said Ross, a lobbyist and gambling lawyer who worked for Las Vegas Sands before being hired by Drago in 2009. His client roster now includes Las Vegas Sands, one of several gambling operators trying to convince Florida lawmakers to approve “destination resort” casino-style gambling in South Florida.

Johnson also said he didn’t know that his boss had a side job as a Mardi Gras consultant when he arranged the lunch with Ross at Greer’s request.

“Greer had to meet Scott. We had to go to lunch. Scott had to be there, and I had to get Scott there and he wouldn’t say why,” Johnson, now an AFLAC insurance agent, said in a telephone interview.

After the meeting, “Greer was frustrated,” Johnson added. “He didn’t seem happy.”

Hartman and Tyner Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Dan Adkins said he hired Greer as a consultant for a constitutional amendment that would have lowered the tax rate on slot machines. That plan was dropped after lawmakers reduced the tax rate in legislation dealing with a compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Adkins said he never asked Greer to lobby for him and didn’t seek to get Roberts fired.

“Absolutely not. I had very little communication with Jim Greer during that whole time. He was on retainer strictly for the issue of running the constitutional amendment,” Adkins said. “It’s just nonsense. Sorry. But the people playing the bad games here are Dunbar and Romanik.”

Dunbar has represented the Ft. Myers group, and David Romanik is a principal of and attorney for Ft. Myers Real Estate Holdings Inc. Romanik and Dunbar are both affiliated with Gulfstream Park Casino in Broward County and are both part-owners of a controversial track in the north Florida community of Gretna. The pair is frequently at odds with other South Florida pari-mutuels.

Greer’s lawyer Damon Chase claims Greer got his orders from Crist, who is now a Democrat and is expected to announce a bid for governor in October.

“Suffice it to say, Mr. Greer served at the pleasure of Charlie Crist during that time. Mr. Greer was steadfastly loyal to Charlie Crist and always followed instructions consistent with Mr. Crist’s agenda. Any involvement Mr. Greer would have had in this story would have been at Charlie Crist’s express direction,” Chase said in an e-mail.

Crist did not return calls seeking comment.

Drago, who left his post as DBPR secretary in November 2009 and went to work as Crist’s deputy chief of staff, said the former governor never pressured him about the quarter-horse issue.

“I never got direction that I can ever recall from the governor’s office one way or the other. The only concern was that they were kept in the loop as to what we decided. I never got any direction and I never even got a sense from the governor’s office that they wanted me to do anything particular,” Drago said.

Roberts left the agency the day after he inadvertently released documents to a lawyer for Mardi Gras, a competitor of Gulfstream, related to an investigation into a ring of Gulfstream workers who stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from slot machines using free play cards.

DBPR officials at the time said that the public records fiasco had nothing to do with Roberts’ departure. Roberts now works as a lobbyist for Magic City Casino, the former Flagler Dog Track in Miami-Dade County.

But the depositions and testimony in the case show that the governor’s office was keenly interested in the quarter-horse permits.

For two years, Crist’s administration had been negotiating a deal with the Seminole Tribe of Florida to allow the tribe to operate slots. Lawmakers refused to go along with the first compact Crist signed with the tribe in 2007 and, in 2009, the Legislature was preparing to pass a bill approving the agreement, ultimately authorized in 2010. In 2004, voters approved slot machines in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, opening the door for slots on tribal lands.

Between September 2008 and February 2010, the agency issued nine quarter-horse permits, including five approved by Roberts. Races have been run at two of the facilities — Gretna and Hialeah.

Three weeks after Roberts was forced to resign, Drago, Ross and the agency’s chief gambling lawyer, Joe Helton, met with representatives of Calder Race Course, Flagler Dog Track and Mardi Gras at Calder in Miami. Calder lobbyist Wilbur Brewton organized the meeting where the group aired concerns about the quarter-horse permits and suggested ways the agency could halt or at least slow them down.

The permits hadn’t resulted in licensed activities and thus weren’t bringing any taxes and fees to the state, the quarter-horse opponents pointed out.

State law imposed a restriction on other types of gambling permits, barring new facilities from opening within 100 miles of an existing track. But a loophole in the law did not include the mileage restriction for quarter-horse permits. The Legislature was expected to include the 100-mile restriction in a bill authorizing the compact with the Seminoles.

The South Florida tracks also believed that Roberts’s interpretation of the law relating to zoning requirements was too slack and complained to him about it, according to McKibben’s Aug. 6 order.

Gambling attorney John Lockwood told the court that “the special interests wanted Roberts terminated, because they were concerned with the quarter-horse application review process,” McKibben wrote.

Under “The Roberts Regime,” McKibben wrote, the agency would accept a letter from a land-use lawyer saying that zoning for the proposed location “was obtainable” from local authorities.

Lawyers for the quarter-horse opponents urged a stricter interpretation of the law that would require prior zoning approval before a permit could be issued.

After Roberts left, the agency adopted the proposed zoning requirements when considering the permits. DBPR officially rejected the Ft. Myers group’s permit in January, 2010, almost a year to the day after the application was first submitted.

Dunbar blamed Crist’s inner circle for the switch.

In the court filings, Dunbar and Romanik accused DBPR of stalling the Florida City permit until the 100-mile restriction went into effect, making approval unobtainable. After denying the permit, the agency refused to grant an administrative hearing on the issue. Romanik sued, and the 1st District Court of Appeal agreed that DBPR should have granted the hearing. The appeals court also ordered DBPR to pay nearly $80,000 in legal fees to the Ft. Myers group.

Ross said Dunbar is making “wide-ranging accusations of a conspiracy when there wasn’t one” because he disagrees with the different interpretation of the law.

“Nobody’s denying there was a philosophical change in how these were handled,” Ross said. “The interpretation was wrong. That’s why there was a policy change. You can see that the interpretation was wrong because to this day only one of them with the exception of Hialeah which has had a facility for decades is operational.”

Calder Casino Operating Slot Machines in Miami-Dade Without Statutory Purse Agreement, Florida Horsemen Advise

Casino and Race Course (Calder) received a slot machine license from the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering (Division) on July 2, 2013 without first fulfilling a statutory requisite, the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (FHBPA) advised the Miami-Dade-based racetrack officials in a letter sent yesterday, July 16, 2013.  Calder has been operating its slot machines in that manner since then.

To view a copy of the July 2, 2013 slot license issued to Calder, click here:  Calder Slot License Issued July 2, 2013

Calder Casino and Race Course (Calder) received a slot machine license from the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering (Division) on July 2, 2013 without first fulfilling a statutory requisite, the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (FHBPA) advised the Miami-Dade-based racetrack officials in a letter sent yesterday, July 16, 2013.

Click to Enlarge: Florida Horsemen Advise Calder Casino That it is Operating Miami-Dade Slot Machines Without Statutory Purse Agreement

Under Florida law, the Division must have on file a binding agreement between any Thoroughbred pari-mutuel permitholder and the FHBPA that governs the payment of purses on live Thoroughbred races at the permitholder’s pari-mutuel facility before awarding or renewing a license to operate slot machines.

Calder’s slot license was renewed, even though no such agreement presently exists.

“In its attempt to demonstrate legal compliance, Calder submitted something altogether different to the Division, which, in turn, awarded the license anyway,” FHBPA Executive Director Kent Stirling explained.  “It’s pretty clear that everyone involved knew that Calder never signed an actual purse contract with the FHBPA, nor did anyone check with us to ask whether they did.”

§551.104(10)(a), Fla. Stats. provides in pertinent part:

“No slot machine license or renewal thereof shall be issued to an applicant holding a permit under chapter 550 to conduct pari-mutuel wagering meets of thoroughbred racing unless the applicant has on file with the division a binding written agreement between the applicant and the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, Inc., governing the payment of purses on live thoroughbred races conducted at the licensee’s pari-mutuel facility.”

The FHBPA Board of Directors voted on Monday, July 15 to withdraw its consent to Calder’s simulcasting effective July 25, 2013, and to take any appropriate additional action should Calder not finalize a statutory purse agreement by that time.

“Purse negotiations have been ongoing with Calder officials since last year,” FHBPA President Phil Combest.  “After months of good faith efforts by the FHBPA, the fact that Calder would receive and operate its slot license is a complete slap in the face to our horsemen and their many businesses that depend upon quality live horse racing to keep people employed.”

www.FloridaHorsemen.com

FTBOA’s Lonny Powell on GPTARP: “Thoroughbred people with major investments in the industry don’t like being treated like potted plants”

GPTARP Thoroughbred race deemed illegal

The race was run under the thoroughbred license of the Gulfstream Park Thoroughbred Aftercare Retirement Program, a non-profit subsidiary of The Stronach Group, which also owns Gulfstream Park. Frank Stronach, a major Marion County landowner, is chairman of the group.

FTBOA’s Lonny Powell: “Thoroughbred people with major investments in the industry don’t like being treated like potted plants”

www.Ocala.com

By Carlos E. Medina
Correspondent

Published: Monday, July 15, 2013 at 11:53 a.m.

A 150-yard thoroughbred race run July 1 at Gulfstream Park was held illegally, according to a complaint filed by the Florida Division of Pari-mutuel Wagering.

The race came as a surprise to most in South Florida racing circles, as well as to the Ocala-based board members of the organization that held the race. The race featured three horses that sprinted 150 yards on the part of the Gulfstream track that lies in Miami-Dade County.

The race was run under the thoroughbred license of the Gulfstream Park Thoroughbred Aftercare Retirement Program, a non-profit subsidiary of The Stronach Group, which also owns Gulfstream Park. Frank Stronach, a major Marion County landowner, is chairman of the group.

The administrative complaint by the state alleges the retirement program was required to hold at least two races and did not inform the state of the race at least 10 days prior to its running, as required by law. The complaint seeks to fine the program $1,000 or suspend or revoke its racing permit.

Lonny Powell, executive vice president and CEO of the Ocala-based Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association, said the race was planned without the inclusion of the four association members on the Gulfstream Park Thoroughbred Aftercare Retirement Program board.

“We started insisting about a year ago that GPTARP needed to start treating it like a proper business, with open discussions among board members. Our representatives on the board were never included in a single meeting until we demanded one a couple of months ago. There was a definite understanding that there would be no more surprises, so you can understand the shock we got when a few weeks later this thing happens,” Powell said.

Association members on the program board are J. Michael O’Farrell Jr., Fred Brei, Brent Fernung and Phil Matthews.

“By statute, the FTBOA has four seats on the board. Those members are thoroughbred people with major investments in the industry and they don’t like being treated like potted plants,” Powell said. “They are not figureheads, they are not phantom board members. That has been communicated clearly.”

No one from Gulfstream or the Gulfstream Park Thoroughbred Aftercare Retirement Program could be reached for comment.

The endgame for the race was an attempt to add more casino-style slot machines to the facility using the retirement program license. The move by the organization was criticized for its making a mockery of racing well before the state filed its complaint.

Kent Stirling, executive director of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, which represents owners and trainers who race at both Calder Race Course and Gulfstream Park in South Florida, lamented what some were doing to the sport in order to gain other types of gambling, including card rooms and casino-style slot machines.

Vagaries in the laws led to the state allowing pari-mutuel barrel racing at Gretna Racing in 2011. Earlier this year, an administrative law judge ruled the state overstepped its authority by allowing what amounted to a new form of racing. In gaining the initial license, representatives for Gretna, including Gretna stakeholder Marc Dunbar, argued to the state that the law did not explicitly define racing. Dunbar was also part of the Gulfstream Park Thoroughbred Aftercare Retirement Program race. Dunbar, a longtime Tallahassee lobbyist for Gulfstream, could not be reached for comment.

“They have been getting some very poor advice on how to conduct this thing. I know Mr. Stronach well. I used to work for him. I know this is not the way he would truly want to be conducting business,” Powell said. “It’s supposed to be about the racing of thoroughbreds, not putting on some cheap facade to circumvent the investment which goes into racing to gain other forms of gaming.”

Copyright © 2013 Ocala.com — All rights reserved. Restricted use only.

Prominent Anti-Gambling Advocate “No Casinos” Notes Florida Regulators’ “Nose-Thumbing” at Stern Court Ruling on Phony Horse Racing

Prominent Anti-Gambling Advocate “No Casinos” Notes Florida Regulators’ “Nose-Thumbing” at Stern Court Ruling on Phony Horse Racing

Prominent Anti-Gambling Advocate “No Casinos” Notes Florida Regulators’ “Nose-Thumbing” at Stern Court Ruling on Phony Horse Racing

  • To see United Florida Horsemen’s message to the Governor this week, click here.

In a strongly-worded news release issued this week, June 24, 2013, “No Casinos,” a prominent anti-gambling advocacy group, noted that the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering has essentially “thumbed its nose” at the judge who recently ruled that pari-mutuel wagering on phony horse racing cannot be sanctioned or conducted under current law.

To view the No Casinos news release, click here.

Just days after the court sternly ruled that “pari-mutuel barrel racing” and similarly contrived events run afoul of Florida law, the Division issued yet another such license to Gretna Racing, LLC, after its representatives—the very same attorneys who intervened in the administrative case attempting to defend the Division’s unlawful actions —had sent threatening letters to Florida regulators objecting to enforcement of the judge’s ruling.  Within hours, Florida’s regulators caved.

“The Division is siding with those who want to cleverly skirt the laws – rather than enforcing the full letter and spirit of those laws,” said No Casinos President John Sowinski. “It is time for Secretary Lawson to step in and cancel these licenses before this leads to another un-checked proliferation of gambling like we saw for too long with Internet Cafés.”

Initially, it seemed as though the State would honor the judge’s scathing 85-page rebuke of Gretna’s activities by allowing only legitimate quarter horse racing.  But now, the State appears committed to giving Gretna yet another free pass.

“What’s worse,” Sowinski continued, “it’s clear that operators at Gretna don’t care if anybody even watches the races.  They just want them to take place in order to try to meet the technical requirements of hosting more lucrative forms of gambling, including simulcast, cardrooms, and they hope one day, slot machines.

Normally, the market introduction of any new gambling product would be enabled with the passage of legislation, followed by subsequent regulatory hearings in which public input would be provided and considered.  With “pari-mutuel barrel racing” and its offspring, such as the bootleg racing Gretna conducted this past weekend with the State’s full blessing, none of that process has occurred.

“Florida’s $2.2 billion dollar horse racing industry creates 104,000 documented annual Florida jobs,” explained representatives from the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association, which prevailed in the case.  “Governor Scott has committed to getting Floridians back to work by promoting Florida business the cornerstone of his administration.  Now, we need him to hold true to that vision by putting a stop to this outrageous sidestep of Florida law that doing just the opposite by putting our Florida horsemen and breeders out of work.”

 

 

 

Read more about this issue at  www.FloridaHorsemen.com

 

Gulfstream Park’s unusual GPTARP slots petition has Florida horsemen wary, Daily Racing Form’s Matt Hegarty Reports

Daily Racing Form Reports on Florida Thoroughbred Horse Racing

An unusual regulatory petition is stirring confusion among Florida horsemen and breeders who do not know whether the request to the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering  indicates an attempt by GPTARP, as it is known, to conduct an end-run around legal requirements for a binding agreement with the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (FHBPA).

“GPTARP,” the acronym for “Gulfstream Park Thoroughbred Aftercare Retirement Program,” is the new name for Gulfstream’s decades-old Quarter Horse permit, which was converted this past February 2013 into a Thoroughbred permit.

Last year, “GPTARP,” a non-profit entity, also sought to be declared as the lowest pari-mutuel revenue generator for a certain time period, so as to secure a “Summer Jai Alai” permit that would then, in turn, allow it to re-apply for another Quarter Horse permit.  The State of Florida turned down the request,  which was based on a phony “race” staged on April 8, 2012, featuring two Gretna “Pari-Mutuel Barrel Racing” women dressed up as jockeys and mounted on aged horses of questionable breeding that were bedecked in Western-style saddles.  The horses, one of which had been entered the same day as the “race,” were started at the drop of a flag.  Shockingly, wagering was offered on the event, which had not even been sanctioned by the American Quarter Horse Association as being a legitimate Quarter Horse race.  To round out GPTARP’s “meet,” a Thoroughbred race at Gulfstream on December 31, 2011 had been run under the GPTARP permit (likely unbeknownst to the entries’ connections).  It is predicated on these two “races” that GPTARP’s 2,000 slot machines would be installed, if allowed.

Also a remaining question is whether the GPTARP permit is domiciled in Miami-Dade or Broward.  The case is mired in administrative litigation.  Certainly, the actual location of GPTARP’s address given in the March 7, 2013 petition is troubling, with its “corporate offices” located on or off Gulfstream’s property, depending upon the source consulted.  According to the Miami-Dade County Property Appraiser, the address does not exist.

But Tim Ritvo, general manager of Gulfstream Park, said horsemen have no reason to fear the plans of GPTARP.  He said that under a contract the track reached with horsemen earlier this year “they are guaranteed a share of any revenue from slot machines if we exercise the permit.” The contract runs for at least 25 years, Ritvo said.

So why is GPTARP seeking clarification of the statute regarding the requirement to have an agreement with horsemen and breeders?

Matt Hegarty of the Daily Racing Form reports here:  http://www.drf.com/news/gulfstream-park-slots-petition-has-horsemen-wary 

Gretna Pari-Mutuel Barrel Racing Ruling–National News Coverage This Week

Gretna Pari-Mutuel Barrel Racing
CORRECTIONS AND CLARIFICATIONS

NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
May 8, 2013

In a story Monday about a ruling involving the facility running barrel races in Gretna, the News Service incorrectly said, based on information from the source, that the parent company of Gretna Racing would appeal a DOAH ruling saying its license was invalid. Neither Gretna Racing, nor its parent company PCI Gaming, was actually a party to the case, and thus has no apparent standing to appeal.  An intervenor in the case is the Florida Quarter Horse Track Association, which shares leadership with Gretna, and of which Gretna Racing is a member. The actual party which lost was the state Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering.

 

Other media reports on the ruling follow . . .

Daily Racing Form:  Florida judge rejects track license

A Florida administrative law judge has struck down a decision by the state’s parimutuel regulator to award a license to a north Florida track that offers betting on barrel racing.

 

Miami Herald (Associated Press):  Panhandle barrel racing track loses legal fight

An administrative judge has ruled that state regulators ignored the law when they allowed a Panhandle horse track to use barrel racing as way to bring gambling to a small town near the state capital.

 

Palm Beach Post:  Administrative judge nixes barrel racing licenses

The state of Florida erred when it licensed barrel racing at two North Florida racetracks, an administrative law judge ruled today.

 

Sunshine State News:  Judge Pulls the Reins In on Florida Barrel-Race Gambling

An administrative court judge ruled Monday that a state agency exceeded its authority two years ago when it gave gambling licenses to two North Florida barrel horse racing tracks.

 

Blood Horse:  Judge Rules Barrel Racing in Violation of Law

An administrative judge has ruled that state regulators ignored the law when they allowed a Panhandle horse track to use barrel racing as way to bring gambling to a small town near the state capital.

 

The News Service of Florida via Florida Baptist Witness:  Judge rules Gretna barrel racing license violated state law

Horse barrel racing shouldn’t have been approved by a state agency for wagering in Florida, an administrative law judge ruled May 6.

 

WTVT and WOFL FOX-TV:  Panhandle barrel racing track loses legal fight

An administrative judge is ruling that the state was wrong to let a Panhandle track conduct barrel racing.

 

TheHorse.com:  Judge Rules Pari-Mutuel Barrel Racing in Violation of Law

The ruling follows months of taxpayer-funded litigation in defense by of pari-mutuel barrel racing, for which there is no legislative authorization.

 

WFSU:  Florida Judge Strikes Down Gretna Barrel Racing

A Judge in Tallahassee has ruled that Florida can’t allow a certain type of horse racing. The ruling against what’s called “pari-mutuel barrel racing” came after 16 months of hearings.

 

Blog:  Pari-Mutuel Barrel Racing, We Hardly Knew Ye

An administrative law judge (ALJ) in Florida has issued a final ruling that has determined the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering (DPMW) in Florida improperly issued a license for race dates to Gretna Entertainment for barrel racing.

 

U.S. Trotting/Standardbred Canada:  Ruling Against Pari-Mutuel Barrel Racing

After 16 long months of hearings and legal challenges, an administrative law judge in Tallahassee has ruled that the State of Florida cannot allow the conduct of pari-mutuel barrel racing under current law.

 

State Policy Allowing “Pari-Mutuel Barrel Racing” Struck Down by Florida Administrative Law Judge

Statement from United Florida Horsemen on the “Pari-Mutuel Barrel Racing” Ruling Issued on May 6, 2013:

ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE STRIKES DOWN STATE OF FLORIDA POLICY ALLOWING “PARI-MUTUEL BARREL RACING”

After 16 long months of hearings and legal challenges, an administrative law judge in Tallahassee has ruled that the State of Florida cannot allow the conduct of “pari-mutuel barrel racing” under current law.

The ruling follows months of taxpayer-funded litigation in vehement defense by the State of a new gambling product that was never legislated, never received a regulatory hearing or any public input.

“The State of Florida should be pleased with this ruling,” said Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association President Dr. Steve Fisch.  “It is well-written and consistent with the law.  This ruling will lend confidence to both Florida Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred breeders and owners that Florida is a legally safe and prosperous state in which to race and breed a superior horse.”

“The fact is, the majority of the barrel horse industry was against pari-mutuel barrel racing, since the ‘Gretna Model’ that was used did not provide the economic stimulus that was promised to their industry.  The leadership at National Barrel Horse Association seems to be pleased with the ruling.  Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds alike can now race and breed without the fear that one of Florida’s major economic engines that produces thousands of the nation’s best race horses and provides tens of thousands of jobs would otherwise have been reduced to a farce that would only have required as few as 10 to 12 horses at a day’s performance, producing virtually no additional net jobs.

“The Florida Quarter Horse industry has produced multiple world champion racing Quarter Horses and four winners of the $2.4 million All-American Futurity.  The growth of both Florida’s Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred industries industry has been severely stymied by these questionable activities over the past few years.  But now, with this ruling, the thousands of owners and breeders of Florida race horses can get on with their business of producing jobs and green space for Floridians.

“As for Florida’s professional racing industry horsemen who have fought this battle, we have essentially paid the litigation bill at both ends.  And, we have endured the irony of knowing the very same owners of that new gambling product were actually litigating on behalf of the State of Florida against us.

“But this trial has been about far more than serving justice for an outright hijack of Florida’s legislative and regulatory process by a few special interests.

“Our fight has been about protecting the Florida horse racing industry’s $2.2 billion annual contribution to Florida’s economy that brings solid business, tourism and jobs to our state, as well as national and international prestige in the finest international horse racing communities.

“Our industry creates over 104,000 documented annual jobs in Florida, and we have weathered this spurious litigation to protect them.  Literally, as the “Gretna Pari-Mutuel Barrel Racing” model and its proliferating hybrids are substituted for legitimate horse racing by pari-mutuel permitholders as an end-run around Florida’s statutory requirements for slot machines and card rooms, thousands of horse racing and breeding jobs and businesses that would have otherwise been created have never had a chance to materialize.

“Thus, our battle has been about ensuring that generations of people, families and businesses that have built their livelihoods on horse racing can continue to invest and grow in Florida.

“It also has been about protecting the wagering public by ensuring the integrity of our product through the careful oversight of our independent horsemen’s associations.

“As this audacious case has dragged on, our policymakers have come to realize what we horsemen knew all along—that Gretna Racing LLC’s “pari-mutuel barrel racing” was simply the pilot project to bypass state and federal laws that protect and ensure integrity in the wagering and racing product throughout America.   But by virtually eliminating the need for horses, independent horsemen and legitimate racing, the “Gretna Model” creates nothing but an economic black hole.

“Indeed, those who otherwise would have invested in Florida horse racing and breeding have watched in in amazement as our industry stood under attack—all because of clever lawyering and loopholes that have now run amok.

“As lawful, independent and statutory horsemen’s organizations that have historically functioned as partners with Florida’s pari-mutuel permitholders to produce hundreds of millions in revenue and economic impact, our members hope to once again regard Florida as a permanent home, and that we prosper together in growing our economy as was the intent of awarding pari-mutuel permits to begin with.

“Simply, Florida’s economy and gambling landscape benefits exponentially with legitimate racing, but becomes a special interest vortex without it.

“On behalf of our owners, trainers and countless tireless workers who make Florida horse racing successful on both the national and international level, we are committed to ensuring our sport stays legitimate, so it can be enjoyed by generations to come.

“Remember, as Winston Churchill once said, ‘There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.’”

 

Florida Horse Racing, Breeding an Economic Mega-Engine–Here’s Proof–WATCH LIVE

Florida Thoroughbred Horse Sales Nearly 50% over 2012; Watch the Ocala Breeders’ Sale Webcast Live!

Those who were unaware that Florida’s horse racing and breeding industry is a great investment may be stunned to learn prices for Ocala Thoroughbred horses are skyrocketing this week by nearly 50 percent over 2012.

Michael Compton of the Blood Horse, an international Thoroughbred breeding publication, reports that yesterday, the first day of the sale, 189 horses brought a first-day spring sale record total of $11,372,500, compared with 186 horses selling for $7,533,000 at last year’s opening session. The $60,172 session average, also a record, soared 48.6 percent from last year’s first day average of $40,500.  The $37,000 median price rose 48 percent, compared with $25,000 a year ago.

A filly by Limehouse (Hip No. 292), brought $320,000 from Alex and JoAnn Lieblong to top yesterday’s opening session.

“This serious distraction of ‘pari-mutuel barrel racing,’ its hybrids and related spurious lawsuits over the constitutionality of independent horsemen’s associations have the real potential of scaring away these types of investors in Florida’s horse racing industry,” said Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association Executive Director Kent Stirling.  “Our members need to feel confident that their investment in Florida is protected and fostered.”

Florida’s Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Associations Urge Warring South Florida Tracks to Settle Their Differences—And Soon

With South Florida’s two Thoroughbred tracks engaging in an escalating regulatory battle over racing dates, the professionals who do the “heavy lifting” to provide the actual horse racing product—the horse owners, trainers and breeders—find themselves as unexpected bystanders in an unwanted dispute.  Thus, the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (FHBPA), made up of Thoroughbred owners and trainers, and the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association  (FTBOA) can only urge Gulfstream Park and Calder Casino and Racing—each facility remotely controlled by giant corporations—to settle their differences—and quickly.

“I’m all about the free market, but there are certain types of products that require a greater degree of regulation.  Horse racing is one of them,” said FHBPA Executive Director Kent Stirling.  “Done right, horse racing and breeding affords Florida with enormous economic impact because of all the jobs and businesses it creates.   But unfortunately, the current dates conflict is rooted in a statutory glitch that is being exploited by clever lawyering at the expense of what could be most beneficial for all of us, not to mention Florida taxpayers.”

Overlapping dates can drain the local horse population and fragment wagering dollars—making it difficult for the entire industry to prosper.

“This serious distraction of racing dates overlap, combined with other current issues like ‘pari-mutuel barrel racing’ and related spurious lawsuits over the constitutionality of independent horsemen’s associations have the real potential of scaring away investors in Florida’s horse racing industry,” Stirling said.  “Most of our members are small business owners and need to feel confident that their investment in Florida is protected and fostered.”

Lonny Powell, a former horse racing regulator and track operator, who now serves as CEO of the FTBOA agreed.  “It’s imperative that our members—Thoroughbred breeders, horse and farm owners throughout the state—see a flourishing, stable and growing racing industry in South Florida.  We certainly want both of these tracks and all horsemen racing in Florida to prosper.   It’s more than troublesome that this dates overlap crisis distracts from all of our collective efforts to grow Florida’s $2.2 billion-a-year Thoroughbred racing and breeding industry, which among the national few that show an increase in foal numbers, while our tracks continue to offer races that consistently feature some of the best competition on the national stage.  To place any of this at risk for a self-inflicted dates overlap collision course causes us much concern and frustration.  History has clearly shown there is no industry upside that comes from an uncooperative and intensely competitive dates battle like we’re facing here in South Florida”

Phil Matthews, a prominent veterinarian and FTBOA president, agreed.  “Much to all of our frustration, it appears that both we and the FHBPA have little ability to affect the situation.  That’s why it’s important for our policymakers to understand our members have a major investment in putting horses—our core product—out on the track, so Florida’s Thoroughbred industry can thrive.  It is imperative that we do everything we can to encourage these giant corporations to make the right decisions, not just for both their respective facilities, but for the industry and marketplace as well.  In fact, our future depends on it.”

Both organizations agree it’s long overdue for Gulfstream and Calder to finally settle their key competitive differences and successfully move forward. 

“The addition of slot revenues to purses has kept Florida competitive and held our place in the prestigious international world of Thoroughbred racing,” FHBPA President Phil Combest added.  “It was Florida’s horse racing industry that provided the platform and the partnership for the corporations that control these facilities to bring slots to Florida to begin with.  Because the horsemen stand to lose the most in this crisis, we’d like to see this conflict settled very soon.”

Legitimate Horse Racing Brings Jobs, Florida Business Investment, Positive Economic Impact in 2013

Florida Thoroughbred and accredited Quarter Horse Racing

Above: Fans of Legitimate Florida Horse Racing Pack Gulfstream Park

Record crowds, increased handle, growing purses, jobs, businesses and positive economic impact throughout Florida were the clear result of legitimate horse racing held at Gulfstream Park, Hialeah Park and Calder Race Course this year.  Florida’s horse breeding industry also produced the 2013 winner of the world’s richest race—the $10 Million Dubai World Cup.

At Gulfstream Park:  “The record crowd of 20,382 surpassed the previous attendance record in Gulfstream’s facility of 18,224 set last year on Florida Derby Day.  Total handle that day of $24.66 million eclipsed last year’s record of $24.61 million.  Total on-track handle was $4.36 million—up 7.1 per cent from last year.”

At Hialeah Park:  “The biggest advance in the racing was to increase our simulcast outlets from 400 to 500 during this past season . . . When our master plan is complete, we will have infused our local economy with approximately $1 billion in development dollars and provided over 3,000 jobs to South Florida-based entities and personnel.”

At Calder Race Course:  “(The) announcement that Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Trinniberg won the 2012 Eclipse Award as champion sprinter marked the fourth time in the last three years that a horse based primarily at Calder Casino & Race Course was presented with one of Thoroughbred racing’s most coveted awards.”

In Florida’s Breeding Industry:  “ . . . around the world in Dubai, Animal Kingdom won the world’s richest race, the $10 million Dubai World Cup.  The winner of the 2011 Kentucky Derby, he was broken and trained by Randy Bradshaw at Adena Springs in Ocala.  The Derby victory also made his sire, Leroidesanimaux, famous.  Leroidesanimaux stands at Hallmarc Stallions at Stonewall Farms in Ocala for $22,500.”

“It’s clear, hard evidence that, with proper management, Florida horse racing is stronger than ever,” said Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association Executive Director Kent Stirling.  “Now is the time to fully understand that the scope of racing’s economic impact reaches far beyond the racetrack itself—from the thousands of small businesses that support racetrack operations, to Florida’s world-class agri-business breeding industry, tourism, real estate and many other positively impacted industries.”

As Florida’s Legislature works this year to illuminate gambling’s gray areas, however, a simple, yet insidious loophole remains:  With no definition of “horse race” on Florida’s law books, counties have rushed to hold slot referendums in the wake of “pari-mutuel barrel racing.”

Designed to exploit Florida’s requirement for slot machine licensees to hold live racing, “pari-mutuel barrel racing” led copycat to “races” being held with as few as two horses ridden by house-owned riders—instead of the thousands of independent competitors that would normally come to Florida for legitimate competition—thereby squelching the jobs, business and economic impact they otherwise create.  Meanwhile, the offending pari-mutuel permitholders quickly capitalized on the attendant bonus profits of 365-day cardrooms and their permits’ slot machine potential.

Emboldened, some pari-mutuels have started to define a “horse race” anyway they want, resulting in further decimation of legitimate Florida horse racing, the 104,000 annual jobs it creates and its resulting $2.2 billion statewide economic impact. 

<a href=”http://www.hypersmash.com”>Hypersmash.com</a>

Forbes Notes Florida’s “Billionaire Racehorse Bootcamp” For Sale

Forbes Reports Florida's Payson Park Thoroughbred Training Center is For Sale

Above: An aerial view of Payson Park, Florida’s “Billionaires’ Racehorse Bootcamp”

Forbes Notes Florida’s “Billionaire Racehorse Bootcamp” For Sale, Yet State Continues to Let Phony Horse-Related Events Destroy $2.2 Billion Horse Racing Industry

Yesterday, February 12, 2013, Forbes noted Florida’s world-famous “Bootcamp for Billionaires’ Horses.”

Now for sale by its aging private owner, Payson Park remains profitable and near full occupancy.  However, a stark reality lurks in the background of what would otherwise be a highly attractive, lucrative, job-creating and economically beneficial real estate deal—while the waiting list of buyers dwindles.

As Florida lawmakers embark on a protracted study of gaming policy, the State continues to allow the use of phony horse events to skirt live racing and regulatory requirements for slot machine licenses.  Word has gotten around the international horse racing community that rooted in the unilateral regulatory approval of “pari-mutuel barrel racing” is a nefarious plan to deliberately and dramatically curtail the usual thousands of horses needed for a normal Florida race meet down to as few as two horses—thus completely eliminating the need for facilities such as Payson Park and 104,000 annual jobs that would otherwise be needed to support normal training and racing activities, such as racetrack operations, racehorse training and ancillary breeding industries—all part of what drives the horse racing industry’s enormous Florida economic impact.

Will Florida’s horse racing industry be destroyed before our policymakers realize and protect the financial value and international prestige of this economic engine?   How many potential buyers of Payson Park will balk at a purchase because of the clever lawyering and loopholes that have been allowed to literally begin the dismantling of all of it?

In the article, which is reprinted below, Forbes describes Payson Park thusly:

“Billionaires and multimillionaires with a penchant for racing have steadfastly filled the stalls for 30 years, the vast majority of seasonal licensees boarding horses coming through word-of-mouth recommendations.  Among them: the Aga Khan; telecom billionaire Kenny Troutt and wife Lisa; Arab diplomat brothers Mahmoud and Moustapha Foustok; late Irish airline mogul Tony Ryan; diamond prospector Charles Fipke (whose horse Tale of Ekati is named for his Canadian diamond mine); and Madeleine Pickens, the soon-to-be-ex-wife of energy billionaire T. Boone Pickens.”

Meet Payson Park: The $9 Million Racing Bootcamp For Billionaires’ Horses
By Morgan Brennan, Forbes Staff

2/12/2013 @ 7:03PM |

When Virginia Kraft Payson and her late husband Charles Shipman Payson first arrived at the St. Lucie training farm in Indiantown, Fla., it was in shambles.  Built in the 1950s by racing mavens Michel Phipps, Bull Hancock, Townsend Martin and C.T. Chenery, the farm had fallen into disrepair upon their deaths and landed in the real estate portfolio of an attorney looking to eventually profit from the value of the land itself.

“There were cattle and alligators on the race track,” remembers Kraft Payson, a Sports Illustrated journalist-turned-thoroughbred breeder. The self-proclaimed ‘outdoor adventuress’ and her husband Charlie, a wealthy industrialist who graced the Forbes 400 list in the early 1980s with a $100-million-plus fortune, had set their sights on horse racing, having acquired several thoroughbreds for competition. “To use the track, someone would have to ride out first to clear the wildlife that had come in the night before.”

Still, the Paysons leased the dilapidated farm for the winter season of 1979-1980 to train their horses: it was close enough to their snowbird residence on Jupiter Island that they could visit regularly to stay apprised of their investments’ progress during the winter months when Lexington, Ky. wouldn’t provide an optimal training climate.

After racing specialists surmised that it would take relatively little capital to restore the tracks to top condition, the couple, which also owned the New York Mets baseball team at the time, put in an offer to buy it. By August, after five months of haggling, the farm was theirs and Payson Park Thoroughbred Training Center was born.

To announce the new venture – and the new name – the new owners took out a single full-page ad in the racing forum. Posed in front of paddock fences, the Paysons promised to have their newly christened thoroughbred training facility open for business by October 1, in less than two short months.

Thanks to more than 100 people working daily, Payson Park did open. “We filled every stall by opening day,” recalls Payson. “We almost couldn’t handle it; we even had to turn some people away.” And until the economic downturn in 2008, the stalls stayed completely booked, with a wait list.

The result: a 405-acre training facility equipped with 21 barns touting a total of 499 stalls, a one-mile championship dirt track, a 7/8th mile irrigated turf track, and an electronic six-horse starting gate. The work also yielded two dormitories totaling 62 rooms, an observation lounge, 76 paddocks, a café with a commercial grade kitchen, a veterinarian facility, a lighted soccer field, and miles of riding trails. As Kraft Payson proudly points out, the dirt training track is the farm’s crown jewel, lauded the “most consistent of all race tracks measured in the country,” according to an independent study from M.I.T.

Payson Park’s success has been due in part to its prime location. As one of only two thoroughbred training facilities in South Fla. (the other is Palm Meadows), the commercial farm is less than an hour from billionaire-centric Palm Beach, providing a lauded wintertime training option that’s easily accessible.

Billionaires and multimillionaires with a penchant for racing have steadfastly filled the stalls for 30 years, the vast majority of seasonal licensees boarding horses coming through word-of-mouth recommendations. Among them: the Aga Khan; telecom billionaire Kenny Troutt and wife Lisa; Arab diplomat brothers Mahmoud and Moustapha Foustok; late Irish airline mogul Tony Ryan; diamond prospector Charles Fipke (whose horse Tale of Ekati is named for his Canadian diamond mine); and Madeleine Pickens, the soon-to-be-ex-wife of energy billionaire T. Boone Pickens.

Then there are the horses. Pickens is the owner of Cigar, which, with 16 consecutive wins, is reportedly the top money earner in thoroughbred racing history. Other decorated champions include Drosselmeyer, Perfect Shirl, Royal Delta, Gio Ponti, St. Jovite, Easy Goer, In Summation, Voodoo Dancer, Perfect Soul, Ajina, Arravale, Go Between, Callwood Dancer, Pine Island, Lure, and Payson’s own race-winner, Rutherienne. The facility has been used by several Hall of Fame trainers too, including Roger Attfield, Christophe Clement, Shug McGaughey and Bill Mott.

“The Queen of England has had horses trained at Payson Park,” Kraft Payson informs me. “The first question she always asks when I see her at horse races in England is, ‘How is Payson Park?’”

But perhaps Queen Elizabeth II won’t be asking that question much longer. The outdoor adventuress – who has piloted hot air balloons, hunted wild game in Africa and dog sledded 75 miles across Alaska in her 80-plus years — put her beloved farm on the market for $12 million last May. With no buyer yet materialized, it has recently been slashed to $8.95 million.

“I have four children, my sole heirs, who have no interest in thoroughbred racing,” sighs Kraft Payson, who will continue to own and inhabit a residence located on a property adjoining the facility’s vast acreage.  “It’s an estate planning move because I think they would sell it for 10 cents on the dollar to get rid of it and I don’t want that to happen to Payson Park.”

The cash-positive property is being offered as a commercial venture through Atlantic Western Realty Corp. Since the downturn, owners have cut back on their equine holdings, so the wait list has disappeared. But the farm continues to hover near full occupancy: for the 2012 fiscal year, 88% of stalls are full and the facility will earn just under $320,000 after operating costs and before taxes.

Brad Scherer, the real estate broker for the property, says he suspects a major racehorse owner – perhaps even someone boarding horses there now – will ultimately snap up the property. But the eponymous matriach doesn’t care who — as long as it continues to provide training for thoroughbreds.

“We have a reputation for being the very best in the country…so it must continue as a training facility,” Kraft Payson insists. “I do hope that after it is sold, to be able to come down and visit.” And of course, to have a place to board her horses in the winter.

Florida Would Suffer Serious Job Loss, Economic Drain Without Horse Racing Industry, Horsemen Explain at Florida Senate Gaming Committee Today

February 4, 2013–Speaking to the Florida Senate Gaming Committee today on behalf of Florida’s Quarter Horse, Thoroughbred and Standardbred industries, Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association President Dr. Steve Fisch, explained that “Florida would hear a giant sucking sound” if the State were to lose the widespread economic impact of its $2.2 billion horse racing industry.

Dr. Fisch was joined in person by Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association Executive Director Kent Stirling, who represents nearly 6,000 Thoroughbred owners and trainers, 4,000 of whom reside in Florida.

“We urge our legislators to fully understand Dr. Fisch’s plea today to ‘stop the exodus of Florida horses and money,’” Stirling said.  “Horse breeders need their assurance that Florida is prepared to stop the recent rash of phony horse events causing the problem.  They want to know opportunity for legitimate competition is alive here, and that our policymakers take their business investment in Florida seriously.”

As documented in national reports, an increasing number of Florida pari-mutuels have misused their state-granted gambling permits to hold events that are not only afoul of state and federal law, but are deliberately designed to destroy jobs by eliminating the need for horses and competitors in Florida’s $2.2 billion horse racing industry, which employs over 104,000 people annually.

Florida’s Thoroughbred racing industry, which alone employs over 51,000 Floridians annually, is responsible for producing four of the past seven Kentucky Derby winners, Dr. Fisch told the Senate Committee on Gaming today.  He explained that every horse produced on a Florida breeding farm spawns support businesses and produces seven full-time jobs.  These jobs include feed dealers, hay farmers, farriers, veterinarians, racetrack operations personnel, horse trainers, equipment and tack dealers, grooms, exercise riders and hospitality industry personnel who serve incoming horsemen.

Florida’s horse racing industry ranks among the top three states nationally.  Ocala-Bred Thoroughbreds dominated this year’s Breeders’ Cup—the Super Bowl of Thoroughbred Racing.   In additional testament to the strength of Florida’s breeding industry, a Florida-based Thoroughbred breeder purchased 2011 Horse of the Year Havre de Grace last year for $10 million dollars.

To access today’s and other Committee meeting materials, including Dr. Fisch’s presentation and a podcast of the proceedings, click here.

 

Florida’s Horsemen United Today at Florida Senate Gaming Committee Presentation on Horse Racing Industry’s $2.2 Billion Economic Impact

“Let me be clear:  Our hard-working horsemen will not allow the recent rash of phony horse-related events to enable a greedy few to squander our enormous job-creation engine for the people of Florida, or make a mockery of our state to the international horse racing community.” –FHBPA Executive Director Kent Stirling
 

Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (FHBPA) Executive Director Kent Stirling will be present at the Florida Senate Committee on Gaming meeting today, February 4, 2013, in support of Dr. Steve Fisch of the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association (FQHRA), who will present data on the multi-billion-dollar economic impact of Florida’s horse racing industry.

Dr. Fisch will be among the speakers at the meeting today, which begins at 2 p.m. (ET) and is scheduled to run until 5 p.m. (ET).  To view Dr. Fisch’s presentation and the complete meeting materials, click here (begins on page 68).  The meeting will be Webcast live on The Florida Channel’s “Web 3.”

The FHBPA, which represents nearly 6,000 owners and trainers of Florida’s Thoroughbred racing industry, has been working closely with the FQHRA—the Florida arm of the American Quarter Horse Association—to address the recent rash of phony horse-related events in Florida that have been used spuriously by various pari-mutuel permitholders statewide to bypass Florida’s live horse racing requirements in their attempt to secure slot machine licenses.

“It is imperative that the development of any long-term gaming policy by Florida’s Legislature take into account the $2.2 billion annual economic impact of Florida’s horse racing industry,” Stirling emphasized.  “Legitimate horse racing in Florida employs over 104,000 people annually, and is responsible for our Ocala-based horse breeding industry annually ranking among the top three states in the nation.”

The two horsemen’s associations have strongly questioned both the legality and use of the phony horse events, which have been deliberately designed to drastically curtail the usual thousands of horses needed for a normal race meet down to as few as two horses—thus completely eliminating thousands of jobs that would otherwise be needed to support normal racing activities, such as racetrack operations, racehorse training and ancillary breeding industries that drive the horse racing industry’s enormous Florida economic impact.

Stirling added.  “Let me be clear:  Our hard-working horsemen will not allow the recent rash of phony horse-related events to enable a greedy few to squander our enormous job-creation engine for the people of Florida, or make a mockery of our state to the international horse racing community.”

To view a list of other speakers at today’s Senate Gaming Committee meeting, click here.

To go directly to the Committee’s Web page, click here.

For additional information, go to www.FloridaHorsemen.com

Florida Senate Gaming Committee Schedules Two Meetings in January 2013; Florida’s Horsemen Applaud Chairman Richter’s Commitment to Study Complete Florida Gaming Landscape, Economic Impact

Florida Senate Gaming Committee Schedules Two Meetings in January 2013

Florida’s Horsemen Applaud Chairman Richter’s Commitment to Study Complete Florida Gaming Landscape, Economic Impact

After its initial meeting was canceled during early December, the Florida Senate’s new Gaming Committee will convene on January 14 and 22, 2013 during the Legislature’s regular Interim Committee Week schedules.

“I am confident I speak for the 104,000 Floridians employed annually by the horse racing industry that we are very encouraged by Chairman Garrett Richter’s commitment to do a complete economic analysis of all gambling in the state,” said Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association Executive Director Kent Stirling.  “Horse racing generates $2.2 billion a year for Florida and draws global interest to our state.  Because the precipitous side effects of both existing and proposed gaming policies have not yet been duly considered, members of the Senate Gaming Committee will certainly be shocked to learn that we are already killing thousands of Florida jobs during this past year—not creating them.”

Recently, certain Florida pari-mutuel permitholders have been allowed to open cardrooms and apply for slot machine licenses under the pretense of conducting phony horse-related events such as “pari-mutuel barrel racing” that are purposefully designed to drastically eliminate the need for competing horses, horse breeding and the many jobs and economic impact these activities create.

“Would Florida rather have slot machines and many, many more jobs and businesses? Or slot machines and just a few jobs?” Stirling remarked.  “That’s the difference between having real horse racing and allowing these rapacious imposters to continue their scheme.”

Allowed as a brand new gambling product without enabling legislation, regulatory hearings or public input, activities such as “pari-mutuel barrel racing” and its copycat hybrid activities have rapidly spread throughout the State as a work-around to cardrooms and slot machines at the expense of horse racing that would otherwise result in the creation tens of thousands of jobs and businesses.  Wagering handle as low as $24 a day has been recorded for “pari-mutuel barrel racing,” with the resulting state pari-mutuel taxes generated plummeting to less than $20 a day.

Florida Senate’s New Gaming Committee Must Contemplate Dire Economic Cost of Phony Horse Events Enabling Statewide Slot Machine Proliferation

Florida Senate Gaming Committee Chairman Garrett Richter
Above:  Senate President Pro Tempore Garrett Richter will guide the Florida Senate’s newly created Gaming Committee in 2013

Note:  The first meeting of the new Senate Gaming Committee, originally scheduled for December 3, 2012, has been canceled.

It was announced on November 28, 2012, that the Florida Senate’s newly created Gaming Committee will be chaired by Senate President Pro Tempore Garrett Richter.  Senator Maria Sachs will serve as Vice Chair.

  • Information on the Senate Gaming Committee and its membership is reprinted below.

Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association Executive Director Kent Stirling, who represents nearly 6,000 Florida Thoroughbred horsemen, said of the new Committee: 

“The 104,000 people employed by Florida’s $2.2 billion dollar horse racing industry congratulates Senator Richter, Senator Sachs and all the members of this important new Committee.

“As Senators begin their careful study of the facts surrounding Florida’s convoluted gambling laws and regulations, it is critical to know that the statewide rush to hold county slot machine referendums has been largely fueled over the past year by the use of phony, contrived horse-related events such as ‘pari-mutuel barrel racing’ and copycat hybrids deliberately designed to skirt both state and federal law at the expense of our livelihoods.

“These phony events—brand new gambling products that were allowed with no enabling legislation, regulatory hearings or public input—exploit the fact that Florida has no legal definition of ‘horse race.’

“Not even real barrel racing or horse racing, these illegitimate events have been fabricated by rogue pari-mutuel permitholders and their casino interests to purposefully eliminate the thousands of competitive horses and 104,000 documented Florida jobs they annually create in Florida’s legitimate Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse and Standardbred racing and breeding industry, while enabling these facilities to be licensed for cardrooms and—if ultimately allowed by the Legislature—slot machines.

“Hence the statewide rush by counties such as Gadsden, Hamilton and Washington to hedge their bets this year with speculative slot referendums.

“Because Florida law requires live racing in order to hold ancillary gaming activities, facility owners —some of them out-of-state tribal gaming corporations—see Gretna Racing LLC’s “pari-mutuel barrel racing” model as an opportunity to not only curtail the expense of jobs that would normally be created by legitimate horse racing, but to hoard the resulting profits that would otherwise be distributed in purses through independent horsemen’s associations.

Florida Senate Committee on Gaming

Members

Chair:
Senator Garrett Richter (R)
Vice Chair:
Senator Maria Lorts Sachs (D)

Staff

  • John Guthrie, Staff Director

2013 Meeting Records

12/03/2012 03:00 PM Meeting NoticeMeeting Canceled

Some Florida Counties’ Slot Machine Votes Based on Phony Horse-Related Events, Florida’s $2.2 Billion Horse Racing Industry Reminds

November 6, 2012—With residents in various Florida counties voting today on whether or not to allow slot machines within their boundaries, should it soon be authorized, leaders of Florida’s Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse and Standardbred industry noted that similar ballot questions taken earlier this year in counties such as Gadsden and Hamilton, have been wholly based upon pari-mutuels’ use of phony, contrived horse-related events designed to skirt Florida’s requirements for live racing in order to qualify for slot machines.

As documented in national reports, an increasing number of Florida pari-mutuels have misused their state-granted gambling permits to hold events that are not only afoul of state and federal law, but are deliberately designed to destroy jobs by eliminating the need for horses and competitors in Florida’s $2.2 billion horse racing industry, which employs over 104,000 people annually.  Florida’s Thoroughbred racing industry alone employs over 51,000.

“While slot revenue has helped maintain Florida’s purse competitiveness with other states, casinos have become emboldened by nefarious schemes like Gretna Racing’s ‘pari-mutuel barrel racing’ and copycat ‘flag drops’ that are structured to not only yield as little revenue as possible (in order to qualify for even more slot machines), but are aimed directly at eliminating horses and the jobs they create,” said Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association Executive Director Kent Stirling,  “Under the ‘Gretna Model,’ slot money accrues directly to casino owners, and not out into the Florida economy as it was originally intended through legitimate, live horse racing.”

An administrative court ruling has been delayed on whether “pari-mutuel barrel racing” was allowed as a brand new gambling product in Florida without enabling legislation, regulatory hearings or public input.  Followed by cancellation of “races” even though poker and cardrooms have been allowed to stay open 365 days a year, wagering on this unrecognized event has sunk as low as $24 a day.

Florida’s horse industry ranks among the top three states nationally.  Ocala-Bred Thoroughbreds dominated this year’s Breeders’ Cup—the Super Bowl of Thoroughbred Racing.

In additional testament to the strength of Florida’s breeding industry, a Florida-based Thoroughbred breeder purchased 2011 Horse of the Year Havre de Grace this week for $10 million dollars.

 

Based on Phony April 8 “Race,” GPTARP Opens Slot Door Through Summer Jai Alai Permit Argument; The Florida Current’s Gray Rohrer Reports On Administrative Challenge

Flap over summer jai alai permit bleeds into another pari-mutuel loophole fight

Gray Rohrer, 10/29/2012

TheFloridaCurrent.com

State regulators denied a second summer jai alai permit to Flagler Dog Track and Magic City Casino this summer, but now the fight over the little-used loophole that would allow jai alai performances from May through November is spilling over into a separate battle to possibly open the door to more slot machines in Miami-Dade County.

Magic City’s parent company, West Flagler Associates, received a summer jai alai permit this past year, the first in 30 years since an exemption was written into state statutes that would allow a summer permit to the lowest-performing pari-mutuel in a county with at least five jai alai pari-mutuels. The state Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering denied West Flagler Associate’s application for a second permit in August, declaring that Hialeah Park had the lowest racing handle of permit-holding pari-mutuels in the 2011-2012 fiscal year.

Now, Gulfstream Park — a “racino” that offers horserace betting and casino poker games — is challenging in administrative court the Division of Parimutuel Wagering’s declaration. Gulfstream Park’s mailing address is in Hallandale Beach, on the southern end of Broward County, but Gulfstream lawyers argue it operates in Miami-Dade County as well, and should be designated the lowest-handling permit holder there.

The court challenge, however, isn’t designed to get a summer jai alai permit, those attempting to block the move say. West Flagler Associates and the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent Protective Association are attempting to intervene in the case. They contend Gulfstream is really after more slot machines, since Gulfstream would be unable to add slot machines to a facility in Miami-Dade County under its existing permit. However, if Gulfstream uses a state statute that allows a pari-mutuel to transfer its quarter horse permit to a nonprofit organization and then convert it to a limited thoroughbred horse racing permit, it could expand its slots, even at different or future venues in Miami Dade.

Gulfstream was on track to do that, having transferred its quarter horse permit to the nonprofit Gulfstream Park Thoroughbred After Racing Program (GPTARP), but recently withdrew an application to convert it to a limited thoroughbred horse racing permit, said a spokeswoman for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, the agency that houses the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering.

Here’s how an FHBPA attorney described the move in a court filing asking for intervenor status. Italics and capitalizations were in the original:

Juliet Capulet once pondered ‘What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.’ GPTARP, the Gulfstream Park Thoroughbred After Racing Program, has revealed itself as anything other than an after racing program for thoroughbred horses. Rather, GPTARP is just a means to an end, and the end is the placement of additional slot machines and other forms of gambling ON THE SAME PROPERTY where Gulfstream Park presently conducts thoroughbred horse racing and operates a racino.”

Marc Dunbar, a Gulfstream Park attorney and pari-mutuel lobbyist, did not return a call for comment Monday.

A hearing in the case is scheduled for Dec. 10.

 

Ocala Breeders Sales (OBS) Commits to Legitimate Quarter Horse Racing; Meanwhile, Unsuspecting Horseman Reports Being Tricked Into Phony Event, Daily Racing Form’s Matt Hegarty Reports

 

OBS Commits to Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association; South Marion Real Estate Holdings Runs Phony Race, Tricks Horseman

Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company plans Quarter Horse race Dec. 11

By Matt Hegarty
Daily Racing Form
Published October 25, 2012

Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company in Marion County, Fla., plans to run a Quarter Horse race and a Thoroughbred race on Dec. 11 to activate a 25-year-old permit for Quarter Horse racing that would allow the track to pursue a card room or other forms of gambling that might one day be legalized for permit holders, officials of the company confirmed on Thursday.

The sales company’s plan is the latest in a series of efforts by Florida companies to activate permits for Quarter Horse racing to exploit the gambling opportunities afforded to permit holders under a convoluted set of laws and regulations. Under those rules, permit holders are eligible to apply for a license to run card rooms, and many of the principals involved are optimistic that they will be successful in convincing lawmakers to expand those opportunities later to include slot-machine parlors or casinos.

The efforts have concerned officials representing both Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses who fear that the companies will use Quarter Horse permits to skirt regulations requiring the distribution of card-room revenues to horsemen. Under Florida law, Thoroughbred permit holders must provide 50 percent of all card-room revenue to purses, but Quarter Horse permit holders do not have any such requirement.

But Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company officials said on Thursday that they would hold the Dec. 11 races only with the sanction of the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association, said Tom Ventura, the president of the company. Still, OBS is seeking to activate the permit to keep its options open should the Florida legislature authorize additional forms of gambling, Ventura said.

“What lies ahead is still uncertain other than that we wanted to activate the permit, run the races, and leave the door open for anything that might come in the future, whether that’s card rooms or whatever else,” Ventura said.

That goal is also the hope for a variety of other companies – many of which have shared ownership – seeking Quarter Horse permits, which are currently held by 12 entities in Florida, including Gulfstream Park Thoroughbred Aftercare Racing Program. The Gulfstream Park Aftercare group received its permit after running a single Quarter Horse race on April 8 at Gulfstream that was organized by the track and run over the objections of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association.

Including the Gulfstream Park Aftercare group, none of the companies that has activated the permits has contacted the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association about an agreement governing the racing, and they have instead enlisted independent Quarter Horse trainers to provide runners for races that are held under conditions that strain the boundaries of legitimate racing.

For example, last weekend, a company called South Marion Real Estate, under a lease that South Marion reached with OBS to use the sales comapny’s property, held two races on the grounds using horses provided by one Quarter Horse owner-trainer, Marcus Strickland. When Strickland arrived with the horses, organizers of the races said they had to be listed under different trainer names, despite Strickland’s owning and training the horses, Strickland said. Strickland said he was told that his horses were being rented to the program trainers. The races were then run as parimutuel events, which will likely allow South Marion to apply for a Quarter Horse permit.

Strickland said he provided the horses because he was promised by the organizers of the races that they intended to run at least 20 Quarter Horse races at OBS once they received the permit. However, after discussing the situation with the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association, Strickland now says that he has doubts about the group’s intentions of ever running another Quarter Horse race other than the minimum required to activate the permit.

“I don’t know if this was on the up and up or if it was a scam and I got caught in the middle of it,” said Strickland, who received $6,000 for providing the horses. “If I was misled, I may have done more harm than good.”

The races at OBS were organized by Tony Mendola, according to Ventura. Strickland said that the check to pay him for providing the horses was from Bellwhether Properties.

Mendola did not return phone calls to his cell phone on Thursday.

Casino Doctors on “Pari-Mutuel Barrel Racing”: State of Florida Was Clueless As Gretna, Others Plowed Ahead on Slot Scheme

BETTING ON BARREL RACING IN FLORIDA?

Originally Posted on June 13, 2012

WELCOME TO GRETNA

First time we ever saw barrel racing was in the 60’s at the PIMA County Fair (Arizona) in the desert west of the Tucson city limits.  Several dozen talented, young cow girls atop steeds of considerable agility traversed the barrels from front to back and back to front til one remained clearly the best.  Certainly today’s rodeo fans around the country have enjoyed similar competitions as prelims to the calf roping and bull riding. In fact barrel racing is gaining in popularity and now is considered at some rodeos a main event.

However, NOT ONCE watching barrel racing did it REMOTELY occur that it in the year 2012 it is the center piece for creating a racino.   Sure, there might be a casual wager between cowboys or fans to keep the interest level up. But, that’s not what’s going on in the boondocks of the Sunshine State.  Here’s the deal:

Tiny Gretna,Florida (population 1700), is located in Gadsden County in the Panhandle.  The nearest megalopolis is Quincy (the county seat), and then Bainbridge, Georgia. Gadsden is a traditional democratic stronghold in the long skinny panhandle area that goes bright red since the mid 1960’s.

Gretna is located just a hop skip and jump off  coast to coast interstate 10 at the point in the state where motorists cannot imagine that Florida continues  on much further (it does). It centers the dullest, most boring section of I-10 with continuous forests of sphagnum moss covered oak and pine trees:  no scenery and straight as an arrow. The three hour drive from Bowdenville to Pensacola is a snoozer.  Greater Gretna touches but does not intrude into the Central Time Zone.

By way of background, five years ago a pie in the sky initiative by a private concern (supposedly in tandem with the Miami Dade County Commission and Airport Authority) tried to place slot machines in the airport. Considered mostly folly, it was declared ultimately totally illegal by the State. It was a gargantuan manipulation of the constitutional amendment allowing slots in the Miami area race tracks and frontons.

Shortly thereafter wire services around the state erupted with a story about tiny Gretna, Florida housing a racino in its midst with Barrel racing its center piece.  Of course, since the State Constitution mandates slot machines were only legal in the Miami Dade/Broward County race tracks the chances of Gretna being a bonafide gaming destination was considered totally absurd.  Or was it?

The nearest pari-mutuel facility to Gretna is the dog track in Monticello near Tallahassee, or Panama City. NOTHING IN BETWEEN.

In a state where telemarketers continue to sell underwater lots in the Everglades, and arcades in strip malls feature  “internet” look alike slot machines that pay out in “merchandise”,   the prevailing philosophy “shoot it up the flagpole” continues to produce multiple overnight millionaires.  Scam artists are so numerous that white collar criminals like Scott Rothstein and Bernie Madoff and Nevin Shapiro are revered by lesser operatives who stoop to fleecing  friends, enemies, even relatives.

In that climate little Gretna proudly announced that it would endorse the building, staffing  and operating  a barrel racing arena using quarter horses in competition as a prelim (excuse) to open a full blown poker room and subsequent casino complex.

Six years ago when the Florida  legislature authorized the marriage between horses,dogs,cestas and Wheel of Fortune machines much of the legal language was not specific (in fact ambiguous)  as lobbyists played upon the income from slots to bolster the disastrous education budget of Florida, and social programs to boot. A panacea.  Found money…..

Well, some bright entrepreneurs reasoned that there’s really no difference between Gulfstream Park’s thoroughbred  oval, Hollywood Dog Track greyhound marathon course, the Miami Jai Alai fronton and Hialeah Park’s quarter horse sprints  and competitive barrel racing (17 seconds and a cloud of dust).  The State was clueless. All of the various factions got to arguing with one another while the powers that be in Gretna plowed ahead.

Palm Beach County which was excluded from the law (but a mecca for simulcast and greyhound wagering and poker) started legal suits against the state. Aside from the Disney corridor around Orlando, a variety of factions around the peninsula began sniffing around the viability of casinos or racinos.

Here’s a coinkidink, the “private” concern in the Gretna promotion involves one David Romanik who was the instigator of the failed attempt to get the slot machines into the Miami airport, and subsequently to place a slot parlor in the trendy western suburb, Weston. He was also a past CEO of Gulfstream Park and a savvy lawyer about all things gaming in Florida. In Gretna he had yet another interested partner: The Creek Indians.

The Creek tribe owns and operates successful casinos in Alabama and their historical tribal territory, which, depending upon who you ask extends into the south Georgia/West Florida marketplace.  With Georgia being a state with NO pari-mutuel or casino gaming there’s a vast untapped mass of pennies, nickels, dimes and dollars awaiting a convenient gambling destination.

The hue  and cry against Gretna’s new facility has been swift and deafening:  ranging from the National Barrel Horse Racing Association to the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association to thoroughbred and quarter horse breeders to the usual religious and social entities that automatically dismiss gambling of any kind. All are adamantly opposed. All vocal.

However, definitions of what constitutes a bonafide “race”  in the State of Florida are cloudy at best and with no strong governing body, the door swung wide open for the little town that could. Even the weak, out of step governor looked the other way and kicked the can down to regulatory officials in departments varying from state to agriculture.

On a fairly frequent basis, a couple dozen people, 8 or so horses and riders gather at the Creek Entertainment Gretna facility, which incidentally already houses a fully operational poker room—- as owners campaign to add slots into the mix. The PCI (Poarch Band of the Creek Indians along with Mr. Romanik and his partner and uber lobbyist Marc Dunbar) is building the race track facility and casino, holding job fairs, and generally marching on.  PCI has gone so far as to send a breakage check to the Florida Quarter horse Racing Association with which it has no relationship. The check was returned immediately.

In January 2012  a referendum in Gadsden County was held to determine if the fine citizens of that (rural) county would allow slots/barrel racing etc. in their midst. It passed. This vote, the very essence of which was illegal  by constitutional statute sent all manner of ripples through the industry and government.  State Attorney General Bond and state regulators proclaimed it illegal and horse enthusiasts across the state called it nothing more than a GET RICH QUICK scheme.

All that being said, the orchestration of going from NOTHING to a possible major casino player in two years is breathtaking.  Mssrs. Romanik and Dunbar were able to get the biggest impediment to their scheme capsized by gaining the Governor’s ear and having the recalcitrant chief of the Pari-Mutuel division, Milt Champion, fired before the referendum was in place. From that point forward they railroaded, cajoled, sidestepped, clouded just about every aspect of the issue and, bang zoom, the poker take for the month of April was 232,019.099.

There is no surprise to those of us who’ve inhabited this state of slings and arrows over the years that such a scheme would not only be successful but leave the overall impression that it’s a good thing for the masses (and city, county, state budgets, jobs, equestrian industry bolster etc).  There is also no surprise that a half dozen similar schemes around the state are already in the prep stage and, depending upon how long it takes the legislature and officials to capitulate, should be up and going within a few years.

Thank you Scott and Bernie and all your many, many predecessors for making Florida the land of opportunity (and sunshine).

Controversial Gretna Resumes “Pari-Mutuel Barrel Racing,” Plans Thoroughbred Simulcasting from Calder Casino Despite Pending Litigation, The Blood Horse’s Jim Freer Reports

Gretna Resumes Racing, Plans Simulcasting

Updated: Saturday, October 13, 2012 9:52 AM
Posted: Friday, October 12, 2012 9:56 AM

Gretna Racing in Gretna, Fla., has resumed its controversial pari-mutuel barrel racing under a Quarter Horse license and it is preparing to start its first simulcast signals that could include Calder Casino & Race Course and other Thoroughbred tracks.

Gretna Racing, located 25 miles west of Tallahassee, held 40 rodeo-like barrel racing performances in December 2011 and January 2012. Research by The Blood-Horse indicates there have been no other recent pari-mutuel barrel racing meets in the United States.

As Gretna Racing begins its new season, the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings is preparing to issue a ruling by the end of this November that could determine whether any of the state’s other Quarter Horse license holders could conduct pari-mutuel barrel racing under those licenses.

The Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association and the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association are supporting the case’s plaintiffs, the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association, and the Florida Quarter Horse Breeders and Owners Association. They maintain that pari-mutuel barrel racing is not legal under Florida law.

Because Gretna Racing has completed one pari-mutuel meet, it is eligible under Florida laws to take simulcasts.

On its website, Gretna Racing has a statement that simulcasting is “coming soon” without additional details.

Several employees in Gretna’s poker room, reached by phone, declined to talk about the track’s planned start date for simulcasting and its possible list of signals.

Marc Dunbar, a Tallahassee attorney who represents Gretna Racing, did not return phone calls. He is a minority owner of the track’s parent Creek Entertainment Gretna, whose majority owner is the Poarch Creek Indian Tribe of Alabama.

“Calder plans on sending the signal to Gretna because they qualify under law,” officials of  the Miami Gardens, Fla., track said in a  statement.

If Calder or the Florida HBPA declines to send the track’s signal and its imported signals to Gretna. Calder would also have to stop transmission to most if not all  of the approximately 20 Florida horse tracks, Greyhound tracks and jai-alai frontons that take its signal.

Thus, the Florida HBPA will not use its veto power and prevent Calder from sending its live and imported signals to Gretna, said Florida HBPA executive director Kent Stirling.

Data from the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering indicate the importance of intra-state wagering (ITW) to Calder and  the Florida HBPA, which has  the purse contract with Calder.

Wagering on Calder races totaled $4.4 million at other Florida pari-mutuels during the combined months of July and  August this year.

Those facilities’  total wagering on other Thoroughbred tracks, sent via Calder, was $49.2 million for the combined two months.

That $54 million in  bets was  about 45% of the $119 million in wagers at  Florida pari-mutuels during the two months, according to the Florida DPMW.

Those numbers illustrate the usual scene at many of the state’s Greyhound tracks: The poker room is crowded and it appears through observation that there are as many, if not more, people betting on Thoroughbred simulcasts than on live races.

The Florida HPBA and its allies are concerned that any new  barrel racing tracks would focus on poker and simulcasts and have low racing costs while competing for gaming dollars with Florida’s established racing and breeding industries.

Several Florida counties, including Gadsden where Gretna is located, have approved ballot issues that would permit casinos at their pari-mutuels. There is a widespread view that Florida’s courts and/or its legislature would need to approve any expansion of casinos.

Ruling Pending

The Florida Division of Administrative Hearings finished its hearing on the Gretna case Aug. 23 in Tallahassee. Attorneys who represent the plaintiff Florida Quarter Horse associations said Administrative Judge Cathy Sellers indicated she plans to issue a ruling by Nov. 24.

If Sellers rules in favor of the plaintiffs, she could not revoke Gretna Racing’s licenses or order a halt to racing or poker at the facility.

But she could tell the Florida DPMW and its parent, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, to not renew Gretna’s licenses and not issue other licenses for pari-mutuel barrel racing until the overall legality of the activity is reviewed.

A ruling in Gretna Racing’s favor would not require any of those reviews or changes.

When asked about the Gretna case. Calder officials said in a statement: “There are a lot of opinions on barrel racing issues, but Calder does not have comment on supporting Gretna or questioning our state regulator.”

In the administrative court, the Quarter Horse associations maintained that pari-mutuel barrel racing is not authorized under Florida laws. However, Gretna Racing had Quarter Horses as the majority of horses in its barrel races and thus met a state law’s requirement for the breeds that can be used under a Quarter Horse license.

This year the Florida legislature did not pass a bill that would have specifically excluded barrel racing from pari-mutuel horse racing. It is anticipated the sponsors will introduce a similar bill for the 2013 session.

In addition to its three Thoroughbred tracks, Florida has Quarter Horse racing at Hialeah Park and Standardbred racing at Isle Casino & Racing at Pompano Park.

Total wagering on Gretna’s races for 40 cards was $43,514 in 2011-2012, according to the Florida DPMW.

It has scheduled pari-mutuel barrel racing for 10 weekends through June 30, 2013. As of Oct. 11, the Florida DPMW did not have Gretna’s Oct. 5-6 handle numbers readily available.

Gretna Racing’s website has a notice that because of low attendance it has canceled a series of non-wagering “open barrel racing” days.

That  led the Florida HBPA to issue the following comment: “It is the lowest of ironies that Gretna Racing’s card and poker room continues to stay open 365 days a year. This regulatory nightmare has meant the loss of countless Florida jobs and economic impact, not to mention the tax revenue that could have helped our economy if legitimate racing had otherwise been held at Gretna.”

Florida’s 50,000 Employed by Thoroughbred Racing at Crossroads: Miami Herald Business Monday Interview With Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (FHBPA) Director Kent Stirling

The Miami Herald
Posted on Sun, Oct. 14, 2012
statewide the horse industry still generates an economic impact of about $5.1 billion and nearly half of that comes from racing. At South Florida’s major tracks like Calder Race Course and Gulfstream Park there are thousands of people who depend on horses to make their living, from trainers and grooms to blacksmiths and veterinarians.
Above:  Kent Stirling, executive director of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association at Calder Race Track in Miami Gardens, visits the thorougbred Philourpockets.   (Photo:  Joe Rimkus Jr. / Miami Herald Staff)

Keeping track of the horse racing industry

By ELAINE WALKER
ewalker@MiamiHerald.com

Today, it’s the slot machines, more than the races, that draw crowds to the major horse tracks in South Florida.

Yet, statewide the horse industry still generates an economic impact of about $5.1 billion and nearly half of that comes from racing. At South Florida’s major tracks like Calder Race Course and Gulfstream Park there are thousands of people who depend on horses to make their living, from trainers and grooms to blacksmiths and veterinarians.

But in many ways the industry sits at a crossroads and the leaders of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association are fighting for the livelihood of their members. The trade association represents the 5,500 horse owners and trainers who race in South Florida at both the Calder Casino & Race Course and Gulfstream Park Racing & Casino.

The Miami Herald recently met with Kent Stirling, executive director of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, to discuss what’s happening in racing today. Then we asked him to respond to our written questions. Here’s an edited version of what he had to say:

Q: How did you get involved in the horse and pari-mutuel industry?

I grew up on a farm and both of my parents and my sister were talented show horse riders. I didn’t much care for jumping show horses, so when I was 16 I went to old Randall Park in Cleveland and worked as a hot walker for thoroughbred race horse trainer Jerry Caruso. By the time I went into the Air Force, I had spent a few more summers working with racehorses when home from college. After four years of sitting behind a desk in the U.S. Air Force, I knew I wanted to work outside. Since I love animals, becoming a thoroughbred horse trainer. It seemed like the perfect job.

Q: How many people are currently employed by the thoroughbred industry?

Somewhere in excess of 50,000 people are employed in Florida’s thoroughbred racing industry.

Q: Are most people in the industry still making money today? Why or why not?

Each year fewer and fewer owners and trainers in Florida are making a profit. I would guess that very few of the owners and trainers that race year-round in Florida are making any money. Of the trainers stabled year ‘round in Florida at Calder, I would estimate that 90 percent of them are broke or headed in that direction. This is because the purses at Calder have not increased in the last 10 years. Since Calder doesn’t do much in the way of advertising their racing, the pari-mutuel handle declines every year and the revenue from slots earmarked for purses barely covers the loss from the shrinking revenue from declining wagering on racing. I know you are questioning my stating that 90 percent of the trainers at Calder are broke or going broke, because you are wondering why would they remain in the industry under such circumstances? The fact is, this sport really is a labor of love. These people believe that the “big” horse who will turn rags into riches is just around the corner, if you hang in there for one more year.

Q: Do you see the horse industry currently at a crossroads? Why?

I think the worst thing that has happened to racing in my lifetime is the acquisition of tracks by large companies like Churchill Downs (CDI), Penn Gaming and the privately owned Stronach Group (formerly Magna Entertainment). These groups are focused entirely on their bottom line to keep their stockholders happy. All of these corporations used racing and the strong efforts and financial contributions of their horsemen to legally acquire different forms of alternative gaming such as slots. But within a few years of being permitted to hold alternative gaming, these tracks began working on ways to keep these newfound gaming revenues for themselves. This meant casting off the horsemen, their “partners.”

Q: What kind of economic impact does the horse industry have on South Florida and Florida today?

The horse racing industry has a $2.2 billion annual statewide economic impact, but that is boosted especially in South Florida during the winter months when Gulfstream conducts by far the best racing in the winter in North America. Numerous Kentucky Derby winners and other Triple Crown race winners begin their careers at Gulfstream Park and these horses attract many “snowbirds” to South Florida. The Ocala area still boasts one of the major horse breeding centers in North America, but it is slowly shrinking as other states offer better year-round racing with higher purses than Florida.

Q: How much demand / interest still exists today among consumers in South Florida and Florida for horse racing?

Gulfstream still creates very strong interest in racing, because they hold excellent racing and promote it substantially. Calder has always been the “two-year-old capital” of North America, but with stagnant purses and no marketing of their product, they are losing many of their two-year-olds to northern tracks. There still exists a significant demand and interest in Florida-bred horses, because they win some of the country’s most prestigious races and continue to outrun their pedigrees.

Q: Who are your target customers and how often do they visit?

Our target customer at Gulfstream Park is in the 30-to-50 age range. Racing in general seems to have lost a generation or two of fans when most tracks’ philosophy was pretty much “open our doors and they will come.” Well, “they” didn’t come, and other sports and forms of entertainment advertised and used new mediums such as television, which racing ignored for years.. It’s really tough, even for Gulfstream, to draw people to wager on weekdays when times are hard as they are today. Unfortunately, by Florida law, thoroughbred horse racing can’t run races at night.

Q: What do you think has caused the drop in consumer interest?

Consumer interest began dropping about 50 years ago — a time when thoroughbred racing was the number-one attended sport in North America. That’s right, racing drew more attendance than either Major League Baseball, college football or the NFL. Racing was the only sport that could be legally wagered on, and this “monopoly” led to the “open our doors and they will come” philosophy as racing mistakenly eschewed spending money to have its product on television.

Q: How have slots helped or hurt the horse racing industry?

Slots have helped racing, in that they have increased purses at Gulfstream and kept purses from dropping at Calder. They have hurt the industry, because what “partnership” we horsemen had with the tracks has been or is seemingly being corrupted by their corporate bottom line.

Q: How is online betting impacting your business?

On-line betting (ADW), has pretty much destroyed our on-track business by making it easier and more profitable (via rebates) for fans to wager without coming to the tracks. Since the two tracks in question each have their own ADW company, they cannibalize our on-track business. Where before, horsemen would get 10 cents on every dollar wagered on track, they now settle for 3 or 4 cents on the dollar when the bets are placed through a track-owned ADW.

Q: What would happen to the horse racing industry if legislation were passed allowing destination casinos?

Obviously destination casinos would not help our industry, inasmuch as they would have more and better alternative gaming to offer than our tracks. They would have a giant profit margin and economic advantage, because they would most likely be required to pay nothing to purses as our tracks are currently required to do from slot revenues. Gulfstream would like to be a destination casino, but I am not convinced that would be as helpful to racing as some might think.

Q: We know you are supporting litigation to put an end to barrel racing currently taking place in Gretna, a small town in North Florida. How is this form of racing threatening the livelihood of your industry?

The “Gretna Model” purposefully eliminates the need for thousands of horses and denies the horsemen’s rights under the Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978, which mandates that horsemen must consent to the track’s simulcast signal being sent across state lines for wagering purposes. Here is how it could threaten our industry: Gulfstream Park has a quarter horse permit, with which they conduct unsanctioned “flag drops,” or “pari-mutuel barrel racing,” using only two horses per day. Then they build a large, beautiful slots facility and connect it to the arena. Now they don’t need to pay thoroughbred purses. .Track-owned “barrel racers” have displayed in Gretna that they are happy with $2,000 a day divided up over 8 races. To compare, Gulfstream currently pays daily purses of well over $400,000 to the thoroughbreds. Q: Explain how thoroughbred and quarter horse racing are different than what’s happening at Gretna and other tracks with “pari-mutuel barrel racing?”

Thoroughbreds and quarter horses are two distinct breeds that each have their own industry in the U.S. Quarter horses typically run shorter races … about a quarter of a mile. is somewhat typical. Thoroughbreds basically race from five-eighths of a mile to a mile and a quarter. Both industries need about 1,500 or more horses to conduct a normal race meet, with every three or four horses requiring at least two or three people to care directly for them. Plus, both industries have large breeding industries in Florida that employ even more people than at the races.

Q: What kind of industry job loss are you looking at in South Florida and the entire state if “pari-mutuel barrel racing” is allowed?

If “pari-mutuel barrel racing” and similar unsanctioned events are legally upheld, legitimate racing will die almost immediately, since track owners will no longer be obligated to have events requiring the traditional volume of horses. The owners and trainers will move to other states with higher purses almost immediately. All the breeding farms in Ocala will close down and their breeding operations will then move to another state. Similar circumstances with unregulated gambling are already causing a mass exodus of the horse racing industry in Texas as we speak.

Q: What’s your favorite horse track in the country and why?

People that know me will be shocked, as will John Brunetti Sr., but my favorite track in America was, and still probably is Hialeah Park. It was once the most beautiful track in the world and I had my greatest successes there, as one of my horses won the Grade 1 Hialeah Turf Cup twice.


© 2012 Miami Herald Media Company. All Rights Reserved.
http://www.miamiherald.com

Phony Horse Races Are Florida’s Newest Gold Rush, Daily Racing Form’s Matt Hegarty Reports On GPTARP, Others

Florida racetracks’ new fad? Quarter Horse meets

By Matt Hegarty, Daily Racing Form

10/11/2012 12:44PM

Two Quarter Horses lined up near the top of the stretch for the 11th and last race April 8 at Gulfstream Park. A racetrack employee held a flag in his upraised hand, brought the flag down, and the horses were off. When the horses crossed the finish line 220 yards later, Gulfstream Park had officially held a Quarter Horse meet under Florida law, qualifying a subsidiary of the track for a Quarter Horse permit by the state’s racing commission.

Gulfstream’s effort to secure its Quarter Horse permit – which was awarded to the track’s retirement-care subsidiary, Gulfstream Park Thoroughbred After Racing Program – is part of a gold rush by companies seeking to obtain Florida racing licenses to exploit the gambling opportunities afforded to permit holders. Under state law, permit holders in most counties in Florida can operate poker rooms. The belief that the Florida legislature will soon expand the gambling opportunities available to permit holders has led 12 companies to file for Quarter Horse permits in Florida in the last two years, including several filings for parimutuel barrel racing.

The flurry of permit applications has unnerved the state’s Thoroughbred horsemen and breeders, who contend the jockeying for permits is an effort to cut horsemen out of shares of revenue from casino-type games.

Under Florida law, there are two requirements for sharing revenue from card rooms with horsemen. Any Thoroughbred or harness track that operates a card room must evenly share card room net income with horsemen and breeders. But Quarter Horse permit holders have no such requirement. All that is required is a purse agreement with the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association or “the association representing a majority of the horse owners and trainers” at the track.

Dr. Steve Fisch, president of the Florida QHRA, said Tuesday that none of the Quarter Horse racing permit holders has ever contacted him to discuss a purse agreement. Instead, some permit holders, including Gretna Racing in north Florida, have reached agreements with local organizations representing barrel racers, which does not fit under the Florida QHRA’s definition of racing, disqualifying the Florida QHRA from representing the interests of the runners at some tracks.

“The attempts to open Quarter Horse permitted tracks without using true sanctioned Quarter Horse racing is exactly what it looks like,” Fisch said. “And that’s to open a card room or a casino without any true commitment to racing.”

Through Gulfstream Park Thoroughbred After Racing Program, Gulfstream began seeking a Quarter Horse racing permit late last year. The track contended that it ran a race qualifying for a Quarter Horse permit Dec. 31 – using Thoroughbred horses – and the next day, it canceled a Quarter Horse race on the overnight. Then came the April 8 match race using barrel-racing riders, which was run over the objections of horsemen. The Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering’s decision to issue the Quarter Horse permit to Gulfstream’s After Racing Program based on those races has led to a formal objection by the FHBPA.

Officials of the FHBPA declined to comment specifically about the issue, citing ongoing purse negotiations with Gulfstream. The horsemen’s contract with Gulfstream expires Dec. 31.

“We’re obviously not happy about it,” said Kent Stirling, the executive director of the FHBPA.

Timothy Ritvo, president of Gulfstream Park, said Gulfstream’s only intention in running the races was to secure the racing permit out of fears that the legislature would disallow additional permits sometime during the 2012 legislative session. The advice came from Marc Dunbar, Gulfstream’s lobbyist, who has been advising most of the other companies seeking Quarter Horse permits, including the barrel-racing facilities. Dunbar did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Ritvo called the effort to secure the permit “a strategic move by us so that if destination casinos come we could get a place up.” In Broward County, where Gulfstream is situated, parimutuel facilities can also operate slot machines, which are far more lucrative than card rooms. Gulfstream already operates a casino at its Hallandale Beach property, under its own racing permit, which allows it 2,000 slot machines.

Ritvo said that if Gulfstream pursued another casino, it would cut horsemen in on a share of the revenue. He said Gulfstream’s owner, the auto-parts manufacturer and owner-breeder Frank Stronach, has a commitment to live Thoroughbred racing.

“But it’s easy to see why they’re having trouble trusting out,” Ritvo said. “The horsemen are concerned that someday barrel racing will substitute for Thoroughbred racing, and our lobbyists have pursued a barrel-racing license in Gretna. Frank is a free-enterprise guy, so he wasn’t going to stand in the way of that, something that doesn’t affect us way up there.”

Citing “Low Attendance,” Gretna Racing Cancels “Open Barrel Racing;” Poker and Cardrooms Allowed to Continue, While Slots Loom

Resultant horse racing industry job loss continues as pari-mutuels leverage “Gretna Model” to bypass Florida’s live racing requirements for slot machines

Opening for “pari-mutuel barrel racing” once again today, October 5, 2012, despite an imminent court ruling on the legality of its racing license, Creek Entertainment Gretna concurrently announced on its Web site that its remaining “open races” for 2012 have been canceled “due to low attendance.”

The North Florida gaming entity was awarded the spurious license by the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering nearly one year to date, allowing it to conduct the brand new gambling product of “pari-mutuel barrel racing” without enabling legislation, regulatory hearings or public input.

“It is the lowest of ironies that Gretna Racing’s card and poker room continues to stay open 365 days a year,” said Kent Stirling, Executive Director of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, which represents over 6,000 Florida Thoroughbred horsemen.

“This regulatory nightmare has meant the loss of countless Florida jobs and economic impact, not to mention the tax revenue that could have helped our economy if legitimate racing had otherwise been held at Gretna,” Stirling continued.  “Even worse, hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer funds have been expended by the State of Florida to defend Gretna’s questionable license award.”

“Because the spurious ‘Gretna Model’ has been allowed to continue by Florida’s Legislature and pari-mutuel regulators, permitholders across the state are lining up to bastardize legitimate racing and capitalize on its fundamental platform of side-stepping Florida’s legal requirements for live racing in order to have slot machines,” FHBPA President Phil Combest explained.  “This includes every single Quarter Horse permitholder except Hialeah Park, the only place at which legitimate Quarter Horse racing is being held in Florida.”

“Pari-mutuel barrel racing” has failed so badly, that wagering handles as low as $24 per day have been recorded.  Because Florida does not legally define what a “horse race” is, regulators allowed Gretna to proceed, without regard for its impact on Florida’s $2.2 billion dollar horse racing industry and the 50,000 jobs it creates annually.

Meanwhile, legitimate Quarter Horse racing at Hialeah Park, the only Florida racing legally accredited by the American Quarter Horse Association for its high standards, averaged 4,100 daily attendees and handled an average of $200,000 for each day of its 2011-2012 race meet.  Because of Hialeah Park’s success, purses for legitimate Quarter Horse have risen to an all-time Florida high of over $4 million dollars for 2012-2013.

Nearly 1,000 horses were housed at Hialeah during its Quarter Horse meet.  In contrast, at Gretna, the entire 2011-2012 season used approximately 50 horses—thus eliminating the many of the jobs that would have otherwise been generated there and in the local horse breeding industry.

At least 800 documented licensed personnel are employed at the Hialeah meet, while Gretna has a comparable 38 documented licensees.

No Jobs Generated by Electronic Roulette Wrought by Pari-Mutuel Barrel Racing, GPTARP; Florida Defines “Un-Roulette” Same as Slot Machine, Miami Herald’s Fred Grimm Notes

Because Florida law fails to define what a “horse race” is, rogue pari-mutuel permitholders like Gretna Racing LLC, Hamilton Downs, and even Gulfstream Park (GPTARP) have been given carte blanche to bastardize legitimate horse racing through the misuse of Quarter Horse permits to roll out slot machine expansion statewide.  In addition to devastating the racing industry, revenue from these scofflaw permits is being deliberately held down in order to qualify certain permitholders for “Magic City” jai alai permits, thus tripling their slot machine capacity to take full advantage of more regulatory hijinks that now allow various electronic games to be defined as the equivalent to slot machines. 

As a result, jobs are lost in the racing industry, as well as the gaming industry, when pie-in-the-sky employment promised to unsuspecting jobless Floridians fails to materialize.

In the column below, the Miami Herald’s Fred Grimm talks about the “un-roulette” and aptly notes how casinos are lining up to sidestep Florida’s live racing requirements through the insipid use of “pari-mutuel barrel racing” (and GPTARP “flag drops”) that ultimately hurts all of us:

 

MiamiHerald.com

A roulette wheel that pretends it isn’t

By Fred Grimm

fgrimm@MiamiHerald.com

Players hover around the table, regarding a small metal ball as it dances around the circumference of a spinning roulette wheel that isn’t a roulette wheel. Not in Florida. Because, well, roulette’s illegal here, isn’t it?

“It’s roulette, but better,” insisted Louis Ruiz, as the ball’s momentum faltered and it fell into one of the little numbered slots. “No one to cheat you. This is just gravity.”

Indeed, the roulette wheels that South Florida’s racinos and Indian casinos added to their gambling menu this summer are hermetically sealed under a plastic dome. Untouched by human hands. No croupier stands watch.

Gravity, on this particular turn, was kind to Ruiz, 43, of Pembroke Pines, with a card identifying him as an “elite” regular gambler at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood. “I won $210.”

His winnings were recorded on one of the 12 burping terminals around the un-roulette wheel that represents yet another peculiarity in Florida’s ever expanding gambling regime. Clearly, the betting around this table has to do with an actual ball rolling around an actual tangible wheel, not some digital on-screen apparition. But last winter, Miami’s Magic City Casino convinced an administrative judge that these gadgets were an incarnation of legal, electronic slot machines.

Another new machine features a robotic arm that tosses actual dice. But don’t call it craps.

“Takes your money just the same,” observed Anthony Gray, another regular at the Hard Rock. Yet Florida pretends there’s a moral distinction between the old fashioned roulette or craps and these semi-electronic hybrids. Though the electronic versions are much more efficient at relieving gamblers of their money.

Leaders in the state Legislature, as they snuffed out bills that would have created so-called “destination casinos” last session, explained that they’re determined to staunch the “expansion of gambling.”

Truth is, they’ve had about as much luck slowing down the gambling industry in Florida as they’ve had keeping Burmese pythons out of the Everglades. In November, voters in both Palm Beach and Lee counties will be voting whether to legalize slot machines at their local racinos. Not that local voters have any such authority. But the track operators know a “yes” vote will up the pressure in Tallahassee. Up in Gadsden County, 63 percent of the voters approved a slot referendum in January, as the local track operator replaced quarter-horse racing with a novel new form of pari-mutuel gambling: rodeo style barrel racing.

Gaming operators are talking about opening jai-alai frontons in Florida City and Sunrise, no matter that jai-alai has about as much cachet in modern Florida as shuffleboard. It’s all about slots, slots and more slots.

Meanwhile, gambling conglomerates, looking for destination casinos, are pouring money into Florida politics.

And on the other end of the gambling spectrum, Internet cafes have contributed more than $700,000 to state campaigns this year, looking to preserve the fiction that no gambling occurs in their storefront gambling dens.

It might work. In Florida, home of the un-roulette, we cling to an illusion about holding the line on gambling. But the line keeps moving.
Read more here:  http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/09/17/3007503/a-roulette-wheel-that-pretends.html#storylink=cpy

Pari-Mutuel Barrel Racing “Diabolical,” “Ugly” Says Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association (FTBOA) President Phil Matthews

In a September 21, 2012 interview with The Florida Horse Magazine, Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association President Dr. Phil Matthews called the use of “pari-mutuel barrel racing” as a substitute for legitimate racing by Florida pari-mutuel permitholders “ugly” and “diabolical” . . . the excerpt from his interview is below (the complete interview is reprinted below that):

TFH: It’s been widely reported that pari-mutuel barrel racing is a significant threat to thoroughbred racing and breeding in Florida. Can you expound on this threat?

PM: This is certainly a topic that is paramount on my mind. It gets back to what many of us feared from the advent of racinos around the country and slots and card rooms coming in to Florida.  It has always loomed as a double-edged sword.  They were seen as a savior for racing because of the boon it has been to purses and breeder’s awards. But many of us were waiting for the next shoe to drop, when some tracks figured a way to have their casinos, and slots, but not have the investment and demands of live racing at all or curtail it significantly. That is exactly what is happening with barrel racing. These barrel racing rogue permit holders are trying to create a venue by which thoroughbred racing can be eliminated. They pay very small purses, have a very small number of horses to provide space for and still qualify for their other forms of more lucrative gaming. It is an ugly thing that is happening.

I want everyone to realize two other points that are very important about this diabolical process. These people are doing everything they can do to delegitimize the now legitimate, and traditional, horsemen’s groups. That is the FTBOA and the FHBPA [Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association]. We have always been the groups that the racetracks had to enter in to agreement with for breeder’s incentives and purses. Gretna wants to create their own “cozy” horse groups, basically run by them, which they will supposedly negotiate with, and by doing so cut us out of the process.  And I don’t mean the barrel racing process, I mean Thoroughbred racing!

The second point I want to make is this.  Where have the race tracks been on this issue?  The silence has been deafening.  They don’t visibly take a stand but they are just waiting to see what happens. As one high ranking racing official said to me, “Hey, we like it. We like the flexibility it could provide.” This should send a chill down the spine of any individual or organization truly dedicated to live thoroughbred racing in Florida.

The complete interview is reprinted below from:  http://www.ftboa.com/news/presidents-report/2131-presidents-report

The Florida Horse magazine editor-in-chief Brock Sheridan recently had a chance to sit down with FTBOA President Phil Matthews and discuss some of the changes we have seen during his tenure at FTBOA and what opportunities and challenges Dr. Matthews feels may lay ahead for the Association.
September 21, 2012
 

Q&A with FTBOA President Phil Matthews

The Florida Horse magazine editor-in-chief Brock Sheridan recently had a chance to sit down with FTBOA President Phil Matthews and discuss some of the changes we have seen during his tenure at FTBOA and what opportunities and challenges Dr. Matthews feels may lay ahead for the Association.

TFH: Before we get started, most people know you as a veterinarian and businessman, but tell us about your history as a thoroughbred breeder.

PM: I believe I bought my first mare in 1983, a Great Above mare that went on to produce several black type horses including a Grade II filly named Parlay.  As Cedar Grove Farm, my wife and I have been very fortunate to be able to produce several stakes winners including another Grade III winner Rizzi’s Girl and a Grade II-placed horse, Papi Chullo that won several other stakes. I’ve participated in every part of the game from sales at all ages to racing.  It’s been exciting.

TFH: What are some of the things that have transpired during your year as FTBOA president?

PM: Wow, a fast year. Looking back, I guess what stands out the most is all of the transitions that have taken place over this year, which necessitated a huge time commitment but have also energized me due to the potential these transitions have meant and will mean to the Association. Mr. Hancock left after twenty-two years and then Lonny Powell came on board. Mike Compton left as editor of the FEP [Florida Equine Publications] and we brought you [Brock Sheridan] on board.  We’ve also been very serious about transiting to a more dynamic IT and financial reporting system that has taken a lot of time and effort. This system will not only make us more secure and efficient but hopefully will provide some membership added value features that the association has not enjoyed before.  A lot of this transition was started by Fred Brei and then continued by me, seeing them through to fruition.

When it comes to facilitating and implementing changes and forward progress everything moves more slowly than you’d like, certainly more slowly than Lonny and I would like. But that is life. We started in a little deeper hole in terms of the existing technology more than even we had envisioned. And listen, that’s not a commentary on the past.  It wasn’t a focus for Dick [Hancock], being a little more old school and prioritizing different things, but Lonny and I thought prioritizing some modernization was very important at this juncture.

One last thing about looking at the past year; it has been a delight to work with the Board of Directors. They have volunteered time, energy and brain power that has been a pleasure to be a part of. And I can’t say enough about the staff of FTBOA; tremendous.  All hard working and very dedicated.

I’d like to give an additional shout-out to our officer team-Brent [Fernung], Francis [Vanlangendonck], Bonnie [Heath] and Sheila [DiMare] by the sheer responsibilities of being an officer and executive committee member they really had to step-up during the transition. I must give special kudos to Brent, who in the role of First VP has taken his role very seriously to provide some excellent support and counsel to both Lonny and I.

TFH: You’ve mentioned how fast this year has gone and some of the many accomplishments of the Association. To what do you attribute your fast start as president of the FTBOA?

PM: I mentioned the significant transition. Well Fred got the ball rolling. The first thing he tackled as president was to provide more financial and accounting expertise which involved bringing Caroline Davis on board.  She has a wealth of experience in the world of financial management and understands completely the necessity for security, accuracy, checks and balances, etc.  She has done a terrific job.

Fred also worked hard to address complaints coming from within the association.  Several things were changed as a result and in other instances the correct information had to be provided because there was a plethora of misinformation.  He, and the Board at that time, took the mindset of moving forward and progressing rather than just maintaining the status quo. It took a tremendous time commitment on Fred’s part, much more than any previous president. In fact, I think it is fair to say that Fred raised the bar for all future presidents to be more engaged and commit more energy than was traditional with this office. And again, that is not a commentary on the past people.  I think all of us should be very grateful to anyone that has served as an officer or board member and given of their personal time and energy.

A last comment on Fred, if I can. There was some criticism of Fred’s approach to revitalizing racing in Florida. That there was too much concentration on stakes supplements. Something that apparently escapes people on this subject is that the more we improve the live racing product in Florida, the greater the handle, both live and simulcast as well as local demand for Florida-breds. It is the handle—our percentage of it—that creates breeders’ awards.  We need a strong racing product for Florida, for our breeders as well as our owners.

TFH: What does the nine month report card on CEO Lonny Powell look like?

PM: What the search committee saw in Lonny was a person that wanted to move forward and keep moving forward, someone with vision and a proven record as a top executive. What I saw in Lonny was someone that had an amazing breadth of experience within the thoroughbred industry and was not only well acquainted with the workings of the business but knows most of the players both in Florida and throughout North America. The thoroughbred breeding and racing world is very unique with many nuances. I was very pleased that we were able to find someone that knows it backward and forward.

I’ll digress briefly on this point.  There were several names that were brought to the search committee during that time, and a couple of them had strengths in one area or another that were more specialized than Lonny’s in that particular area.  But no one came close to bringing the complete package like Lonny.  I thought it was very important then and feel that we have been well vindicated by our selection ever since; because now I have seen firsthand how many moving parts there are in his position.  It’s incredible really; and it helps so much to have someone that has had a lifetime of experience and success weaving through those relationships; and mine fields in a positive fashion.

You see we aren’t in a bubble.  I think a small portion of our membership believes that all this association needs to do is distribute breeder’s awards.  It is very important that we communicate with, work with, negotiate and lead when necessary with, all of the players with stakes in this Florida industry. That means the race tracks, the HBPAs, the ADWs, the legislature, the Florida Department of Ag, Marion County, City of Ocala, the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, the American Horse Council, and on and on.  If we don’t have a seat at these tables and we don’t press for our concerns on all levels, we become weaker. Lonny’s ability to hit the ground running on all of these fronts has exceeded our expectations.

Lonny gets all that and knows how to work in that world.  He also has considerable CEO experience that makes him a good administrator.  He is an enthusiastic team builder.  He puts people in a position to get the most out of them and creates an environment of support and empowerment in which they can flourish.  That translates to an efficient, competent and accountable staff that gets things done for the Association. As a business owner, I understand the importance of strong corporate culture.  It is paramount in making a business successful.  Lonny understands this to the tee.

TFH: How do you see Florida Equine Publications now and in the future relative to the FTBOA?

PM: I have always thought that the need for a public relations arm to be so necessary.  We are fortunate to have a staff that produces a great product, a product that wins awards year after year.  What FEP produces accomplishes a lot of things for the FTBOA, most notably helping ensure our relevance to the rest of the world, both within and outside of the industry.  The web site, The Florida Horse, the Wire to Wire give our members a source in which to advertise their products, to help get their stories and accomplishments told, to keep up with the industry changes and news, all of these things.

An important point that I think is always worth reminding people of is that without FEP we would be outsourcing any public relations and marketing efforts. This way it is done well, under our complete control and by people that understand our needs and purpose. And as it stands, FEP is a profit asset for the FTBOA.

TFH: Would you like to touch on the recently announced supplement bonus program that is now in its second year?

PM: I’d like an opportunity to clarify if necessary the supplemental bonuses. The bonus affects awards received during the 2011 calendar year.  Anyone that received a bonus during that year will get a check for an additional 11%.  To make the math easy, if you received $1000 in 2011, you will receive a check for $110. From a pure blended percentage standpoint we are now at the highest level in our history-and we hope to continue this upward trend in the future It’s also expanded to pay bonuses for first, second and third place, meaning more bonuses than before.  Oh, and one more thing, those checks should be sent out by mid-October at the latest.

TFH: You’ve talked about maintaining healthy, live thoroughbred race dates in Florida; will Marion County be a part of that formula?
PM: Yes, the FTBOA created OTR [Ocala Thoroughbred Racing] for the express purpose of converting the quarter horse permit to a thoroughbred permit.  This was accomplished in August. It has been the opinion of the board that we need to do whatever we can to ensure racing, and as many racing dates as possible, to exist in Florida. This was seen as a tool in our tool box toward achieving that goal.  It is a tough mountain to climb, but I assure you that OTR is pushing hard to make racing available to us in Marion County. And the type of racing venue we can be proud of that will support the bottom line of owners and breeders through purses and breeders awards, as well as create even more awareness and relevance with the public.

TFH: It’s been widely reported that pari-mutuel barrel racing is a significant threat to thoroughbred racing and breeding in Florida. Can you expound on this threat?

PM: This is certainly a topic that is paramount on my mind. It gets back to what many of us feared from the advent of racinos around the country and slots and card rooms coming in to Florida.  It has always loomed as a double-edged sword.  They were seen as a savior for racing because of the boon it has been to purses and breeder’s awards. But many of us were waiting for the next shoe to drop, when some tracks figured a way to have their casinos, and slots, but not have the investment and demands of live racing at all or curtail it significantly. That is exactly what is happening with barrel racing. These barrel racing rogue permit holders are trying to create a venue by which thoroughbred racing can be eliminated. They pay very small purses, have a very small number of horses to provide space for and still qualify for their other forms of more lucrative gaming. It is an ugly thing that is happening.

I want everyone to realize two other points that are very important about this diabolical process. These people are doing everything they can do to delegitimize the now legitimate, and traditional, horsemen’s groups. That is the FTBOA and the FHBPA [Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association]. We have always been the groups that the racetracks had to enter in to agreement with for breeder’s incentives and purses. Gretna wants to create their own “cozy” horse groups, basically run by them, which they will supposedly negotiate with, and by doing so cut us out of the process.  And I don’t mean the barrel racing process, I mean Thoroughbred racing!

The second point I want to make is this.  Where have the race tracks been on this issue?  The silence has been deafening.  They don’t visibly take a stand but they are just waiting to see what happens. As one high ranking racing official said to me, “Hey, we like it. We like the flexibility it could provide.” This should send a chill down the spine of any individual or organization truly dedicated to live thoroughbred racing in Florida.

Illegal Quarter Horse Racing Planned by Gretna Racing Co-Owner David Romanik for Florida City Slot Venture; the Miami Herald’s Elaine Walker Reports Jai Alai, Quarter Horse Pari-Mutuel Permits Behind Keys Gateway Gambling Expansion

 Note:  For background information on David Romanik’s Ft. Myers Real Estate Holdings, click here.

The Miami Herald

Posted on Mon, Aug. 27, 2012
Florida City could get jai-alai or horse racing, plus a casino

By ELAINE WALKER
ewalker@MiamiHerald.com
Hungry for economic development and jobs, Florida City is ready to embrace parimutuel gambling.

That could come in the form of a quarter horse racetrack, jai-alai fronton — or both — located adjacent to the Florida Keys Outlet Center. Either format would carry a license for the ultimate goal: a casino with a poker room and slot machines just east of Florida’s Turnpike that could draw both residents and tourists passing through the South Miami-Dade city on the way to the Florida Keys.

“It’s another piece in trying to recover the economy in this area,” Mayor Otis Wallace said. “It will present another revenue resource for the city. In these tough economic times, it’s important to look at other sources other than taxing people to death.”

The initiative is another sign of the gambling industry’s determination to expand. Despite the state Legislature’s denial last spring of full-scale destination gambling, some industry players are exploiting loopholes in state law to expand parimutuel betting.

If the Florida City effort succeeds, it will have plenty of company. Miami-Dade and Broward counties are already home to a half-dozen parimutuel facilities that operate slots and card rooms in addition to wagering on parimutuel sports; two more existing parimutuels in the region are eligible for slots. And that doesn’t include the four tribal casino facilities in the two counties.

Behind the plans for Florida City is Ocala gambling attorney David Romanik, the former general counsel of Gulfstream Park. In 2010, the state turned down an application for a quarter horse racing permit in Florida City by Romanik’s company, Fort Myers Real Estate Holdings. While that fight remains in litigation, Romanik acknowledged that applying for a jai-alai fronton could be his next move.

“Should the quarter horse [effort] fail, or if it’s going to take too long, I’m going to shift over to a different type of permit for that property,” Romanik said.

But industry experts say when it comes to economics, neither the racetrack nor the jai-alai fronton are going to drive business.

“The only reason to have the license is to have the ability to open a casino or slots,” said Brian McGill, an analyst who follows the gambling industry for Janney Capital Markets. “The key is you do everything possible to minimize your costs on the parimutuel side and focus on maximizing the revenue through slots.”

Florida City began clearing the way for gambling this summer, when the City Commission agreed to rezone nearly 25 acres at the southwest corner of Southwest 172nd Avenue and Southwest 336th Street. The commission created a new land-use category for gambling. The rezoning came at the request of property owner Fort Myers Real Estate Holdings, which purchased the two parcels of land in 2010 and 2011 for $6.5 million.

Wallace says he didn’t like the Internet gambling that was popping up in convenience stores around his city. He didn’t want to outlaw gambling, but he felt it was important for the city to control where any facilities would be located.

His solution: Create a designated place for gambling far enough away from schools and homes.Preliminary plans presented to Florida City by Romanik’s group in June call for a 30,000-square-foot building to house the jai-alai fronton, as well as the card room and video gambling machines. The mayor said it might open as soon as next year. A second phase could come later with a quarter horse track.

Florida City officials were told that the project would create between 150 and 200 jobs during construction. The card room and jai-alai fronton would yield between 75 and 100 jobs, with another 30 jobs in a video game arcade, Wallace said. Romanik’s group told city officials the facility would be assessed at about $15 million after the initial construction.
Wallace is waiting for Romanik’s group to request site plan approval after it secures the appropriate permit.

“The ball is in their court to come back to us with a plan of what they want to do,” Wallace said. “We’re expecting to see a site plan in the next month or two.”

Romanik last week declined to discuss details of his Florida City plan but said he remains confident of the region’s potential to support gambling.

“I think it’s a great location,” he said. “There are two million people driving by there every year on their way to the Keys. It’s an activity that people in that area have shown they would enjoy.”

One relatively swift path to a parimutuel license would be a partnership with an operator holding an unused permit. At least a half dozen have been issued but are not yet active, according to state records and industry sources.

Among those are recently issued “summer’’ jai-alai permits that Magic City Casino lawyers and others have obtained based on a loophole in a 1980 state gambling law. The provision allowed the facility with the lowest annual volume of bets to seek an additional jai-alai permit for use during summer months. Such permits can be used to construct a jai-alai fronton and poker room anywhere in the county in which it is issued.

“Dave Romanik has spoken to anybody and everybody with a permit,” said Isadore Havenick, vice president of government affairs for Magic City Casino in Miami, which has two unused jai-alai permits. “There are a lot more permits in Miami-Dade and Broward than there are facilities.”

Havenick says while his family has considered partnering with Romanik in Florida City, they don’t expect to make any commitments in the near future.

“He’s not the only person we’re talking to,” Havenick said. “But we’re really waiting to see what’s going to happen in the Legislature.”

If Romanik continues his efforts to secure a quarter horse permit for Florida City, he will face opposition from leading horse industry groups.

The Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association and others are fighting the state’s decision to issue a permit for barrel racing to Gretna Racing, a company in which Romanik is a partner. The horse-racing industry argues that barrel racing is not a parimutuel sport.
Horse-racing leaders fear that Romanik is trying to bring the Gretna model to Florida City, which dramatically cuts both the costs and payouts associated with racing.

“This is just a get-rich-quick scheme,” said Kent Stirling, executive director of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association. “It could lead to the downfall of the thoroughbred industry. We’re fighting this tooth and nail because it’s our future.”
© 2012 Miami Herald Media Company. All Rights Reserved.
http://www.miamiherald.com

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/08/24/v-print/2971208/florida-city-could-get-jai-alai.html#storylink=cpy

Florida Horse Racing Trainer Bonus–FHBPA‬ Fuels ‪‎Gulfstream Park‬ $250 Incentive; Track to Cover Florida Horse Shipping, Return Expenses

Have you heard? ‪#‎FHBPA‬ Partnership Fuels ‪#‎GulfstreamPark‬ $250 Trainer Incentive; Track to Cover Certain Shipping Expenses

The Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association Backstretch Fund will provide the “seed money” for the $250 trainer starter bonus recently announced by Gulfstream Park. The $250 bonus begins July 1 and runs through October 1, 2015.

Note:  At least eight (8) horses must leave the paddock in order for all trainers in the race to be eligible.

The “Backstretch Fund” money does not come from purses (owners).   This is a separate fund that is matched by 50% from Gulfstream Park’s bottom line.  This is the third year that the trainer incentive has been  in place at the Hallandale Beach, Florida racetrack.

Gulfstream will also fully cover shipping and return expenses within Florida for horses competing at the track.

 

 

 

 

Florida Horse Racing Medication Statute To Change on “Racing of Animals Under Certain Conditions Prohibited: Penalties; Exceptions”

It is likely that, by the deadline of June 2, 2015, Florida Governor Rick Scott will sign House Bill 239 Florida Race Day Medication which will change Chapter 550.2415, Florida Statutes rather dramatically.  Chapter 550.2415 is the “medication statute” under whose direction Florida Thoroughbred horsemen have raced for the last 25 or more years.

Despite the fact it was always up to the Florida Legislature to make any changes to this law,  various industry leaders and organizations have freely shared their opinions about Florida being the major “obstructionist” state to the adoption of national uniform medication rules.  Sadly, I have heard this constantly at Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (RMTC) meetings, rehashed to the point that the Jockey Club sent their Executive Vice President to Florida (twice) to meet with the FHBPA and the track veterinarian.  We worked through a lot of issues, but still had one issue that was never resolved to my satisfaction, which we will touch on later.

Meanwhile, for the past two years, Gulfstream Park, the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association and the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association (the Florida Chapter of the American Quarter Horse Association) were on board to get legislation passed that would lead to Florida joining the national movement to achieve uniformity in medication rules.  Ultimately, the 2015 Florida Legislature agreed unanimously with HB 239 which passed the House 112-0 and the Senate by a 40-0 vote.

So exactly what changes can we expect if this bill becomes law and goes into effect on July 1, 2015?   Below, I will review the major revisions to Chapter 550.2415 as they occur in HB 239.

First, language has been changed for drug testing from “immediately prior” to “before” the race to permit testing for gene and blood doping, which can only be detected days before a race and then only has about a two-day “window” for detection after administration.

Second, the fine that the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering (DPMW) can impose for a drug violation has been increased from $5,000 to “an amount not exceeding the purse or sweepstakes earned by the animal . . . or $10,000 whichever is greater.”

Third, the prosecution for a violation of this statute must begin within “90 days” of the drug test positive.  The old language gave the DPMW two years to commence prosecution for a violation.

Fourth, the DPMW must now notify the “appropriate horsemen’s association” of all positive drug test results.  In these cases, the FHBPA can often explain the horsemen’s rights and assist in choosing a split sample laboratory if necessary.

Fifth, if there is an insufficient quantity for a split sample after the lab has called a positive on the sample, the DPMW can take no further action against the trainer, and the positive is dismissed.  In the past, if there was an insufficient quantity for the split sample, the DPMW could take administrative action against the trainer based solely on the Florida Laboratory’s finding.

Sixth, The DPMW “shall require its laboratory . . . to annually participate in an externally administered quality assurance program (QAP) designed to assess testing proficiency in the detection and appropriate quantification of medications, drugs . . . ”  Results and findings of this QAP shall be sent to the DPMW and the Florida Department of Agriculture.

Seventh, the DPMW shall adopt the Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI) Controlled Therapeutic Medication Schedule which, at the time, established thresholds and withdrawal times for 26 medications (which has now grown to 30 medications).  Just about every major racing jurisdiction has adopted these 26 or 30 medications.  The science behind some of thresholds and withdrawal times for these medications is suspect, but for the most part it’s a good start towards national uniformity.

Eighth, the Florida laboratory will now be required to include its measurement uncertainty, or laboratory error, in all quantifications of medications which will greatly reduce the low-level findings of our lab that have led to over 150 bute overages and over 250 clenbuterol positives in the past two years.

Ninth, the DPMW shall adopt any laboratory screening levels approved by the ARCI beyond the 26/30 Controlled Therapeutic  Medications.  If there are none forthcoming from ARCI, Florida could treat these therapeutic medications with zero tolerance testing.

Tenth, prednisolone sodium succinate, better known as Solu-Delta Cortef will no longer be permitted on race day.  Florida was the last state with a legal race day medication beyond Lasix.  We tried to save it, but to no avail.

Eleventh, the statute that permitted testing of ARCI Class IV and V medications only by Thin Layer Chromatography (TLC) that I wrote in 1996 was also deleted from the law by HB 239.   We knew this would be inevitable, but it stood up for 19 years.

Florida Horsemen Thwart Horse Racing Decoupling Amendment; FHBPA President Bill White Calls Out Big Casino Maneuvering

Florida Horsemen Thwart Horse Racing Decoupling Amendment; FHBPA President Bill White Calls Out Big Casino Maneuvering

“The State of Florida’s interest in gambling is to generate tax revenue, not to create the most profitable environment for gaming operations.”–FTBOA General Counsel Warren Husband

It was enough to give even the most experienced horseman a bad case of heartburn.

Reckoning day was April 21, 2015 in Tallahassee as the Florida House of Representatives’ powerful Finance and Tax Committee called roll to prepare for a debate on “decoupling,” with a specific amendment on decoupling horse racing taking dead aim on HB 1233, a massive overhaul of the state policy that could substantially expand Florida’s gambling landscape if enacted.

Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (FHBPA) President and Calder Hall of Fame veteran Thoroughbred trainer Bill White straightened his tie, squared his shoulders and walked in.

A pantheon of casino industry lobbyists packed the committee room as White took his place at the front, shoulder to shoulder with his somber colleagues from the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association (FQHRA), Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners Association (FTBOA) and Standardbred interests.  Together, they faced a gallery of legislators preparing to decide on the amendment to “decouple” horse racing from other forms of gambling in Florida.  The fate of horsemen–the trainers, owners and breeders who drive the lucrative horse racing business in the Sunshine State–hung in the balance.

“The State of Florida’s interest in gambling is to generate tax revenue, not to create the most profitable environment for gaming operations,” FTBOA General Counsel Warren Husband explained to legislators.   With 25,000 horses annually engaged in the business of Florida racing or breeding, the biggest economic impact is gained through ensuring adequate racing days, he added.

But in an age of “less government,” the concept of “decoupling” has become the rallying cry of casino operators seeking to rid themselves of horse racing altogether.  As White  listened to their impassioned arguments calling for “fairness” and “leveling the playing field” by leaving it up to pari-mutuel permitholders as to whether to conduct live racing or not, he wondered if legislators were aware of the many livelihoods and small businesses at stake.

He thought of the many faces of FHBPA members who were even now working on the backstretch as he jotted notes to himself far away in Tallahassee, readying himself for the trial by fire at hand.  Just one month into his new role as FHBPA President, the frustration of hearing horse racing trivialized over and over again as unremarkable collateral damage by those who may have never even seen a racetrack welled up in him as he strode to the podium when he was finally called to speak.

Right off the bat, White set the record straight on who the 6,000 FHBPA members are.  “We are the real deal as far as the horse owners who put up the money and the trainers’ small businesses who do the work,” he established.

The actual leveling of the playing field, was done by voters, who approved slots in 2004 to ensure that Florida horse racing could continue to compete with northern tracks already flush with casino money that was luring the best horsemen away from the state, he explained.  Stand-alone casinos were never the intent.

“Slots are here in Florida because of horse racing,” FQHRA Executive Director Steve Fisch said during his testimony.  “(Slots were) not a plan to race a few years, drop racing and then just have slots . . . a fair deal is a two-way street.”

Delivering a powerful punch to casino-only interests in his closing, White called out their presumptuousness in assuming the Florida Legislature would simply cave to special interests and ignore horsemen’s needs.

“Right now, whether you know it or not–even before decoupling might happen, Churchill Downs is tearing down the barns at Calder in anticipation that it will happen.  Horses have been displaced and even put in tents.  It’s been a real hardship.”  White fired his parting salvo:  ” . . . as a horseman who has invested my life in this game, I find this action insulting that an entity would take it upon themselves to do this before the Legislature has even acted.”

The horsemen’s strong unified presence paid off with the defeat of the horse racing decoupling amendment.  And although the greyhound-related decoupling provisions of HB 1233 passed that day, the clock ran out as the 2015 Legislative Session came to a contentious close just over a week later.

“We still have plenty of work to do,” he reminded FHBPA Board members as he gave his report upon coming back home to South Florida.  “I am urging horsemen to take all necessary steps to make your presence known to your Senators and State Representatives.  Your involvement is crucial.”

With the call of a Special Session anticipated this week for legislators to pass a state budget after they were unable to do so during the regularly scheduled Session, the general consensus is that gaming issues will likely not be on the agenda.  However, horsemen are urged to stay vigilant in the event that HB 1233 surfaces during the anticipated June 1 through June 20 Special Session time period.

To view the entire hearing, click HERE.  White’s testimony begins at minute mark 30:20.