Ignoring Florida Legislature, Pending Litigation, Gretna Pari-Mutuel Barrel Racing Seeks Regulatory Loophole Protection

Read the documents–Gretna Pari-Mutuel Barrel Racing Seeks Regulatory Loophole Protection

Seeking to protect its cardroom and pending slot operations by solidifying the very loophole that enabled “pari-mutuel barrel racing” in the first place, Gretna Racing LLC owners David Romanik and Marc Dunbar have filed a petition to amend Rule 61D-2.001, entitled “General Definitions.”  In response, the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering has scheduled a five-hour March 13 workshop on the issue just days after the 2012 Florida Legislature officially concludes.

The audacious move comes amid Florida legislators’ pending efforts to correct the State’s legal definition of “horse racing,” the absence of which has led to a relative avalanche of pari-mutuel permitholders attempting to leverage the “Gretna Model” to similarly exploit existing the State’s live horse racing requirements to secure cardrooms and, ultimately, slot machines.

Late in 2011, absence of a clear legal definition of “horse racing” was interpreted by the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering to allow for “pari-mutuel barrel racing.”  By successfully exploiting this loophole, Gretna Racing was deemed to meet Florida’s live racing requirements, thereby enabling the opening of its 365-day per year cardroom and poker facility.  At that point having filed minimal “racing dates” that also fulfilled Florida’s two-year live racing requirement for slot machine licensing, Gretna Racing’s Romanik and Dunbar quickly convinced Gadsden County officials to hold their desired slot referendum, despite the cloud of massive and costly litigation mounted by Florida horsemen strongly indicating that “pari-mutuel barrel racing” was, in fact, based on an illegal license award by state regulators.

Now, despite the pending legislative and litigation firestorm, and contrary to the stern disapproval of Florida Governor Rick Scott and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, pari-mutuel regulators will once again entertain Gretna Racing by considering Romanik and Dunbar’s proposed Rule amendment petition.  Essentially, amending Florida’s regulatory definition of “Contest” in the proposed manner would protect and perpetuate not only Gretna Racing, but its six copycat license applicants in the regulatory pipeline, thus firmly entrenching the expansion of gambling at the cost of decimated Florida horse racing industry jobs.

“The State of Florida licensed Gretna ‘pari-mutuel barrel racing’ without any enabling legislation, regulatory hearings or public input,” recalled Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association Executive Director Kent Stirling.  ”The last time I checked, you can’t just ignore the law, then go back and fix it when someone points out in hindsight the fact that you broke it!”

Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association President Steve Fisch noted, “Once again, Florida regulators are usurping the role of the Legislature and paying short shrift to the resulting job loss and economic drain—both of which have been stunningly quantified in this very short December/January time period.  The fact remains:  Legitimate Florida Quarter Horse racing is out-earning ‘pari-mutuel barrel racing’ in dramatic proportions.  To say one is the same as the other—especially in this tight budget year—is simply cheating Florida taxpayers across the board.”

For more information, contact:

  • Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association:   Kent Stirling (305) 628-2989 or khs0813@bellsouth.net
  • Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association & Florida Quarter Horse Breeders’ and Owners’ Association: Dr. Steve Fisch, DVM (850) 510-9650 or sfischDVM@avsequinehospital.com






Florida Senate Agriculture Committee Acknowledges Florida as “Horse Capitol of the World”; Florida Legislators Are Urged To Support Proven Job Power, Economic Benefits of Legitimate Florida Quarter Horse Racing

Florida Senator Alan Hays is a longtime horseman

Senator Alan Hays, himself an experienced horseman, said: “We need to realize ancillary businesses that go with (the Florida horse) industry and the ripple effect of those dollars as they go through the state. This is a hidden gem and we need to do everything we can to magnify the effect.”


Legislators Are Urged  To  Support Proven Job Power, Economic Benefits of Legitimate Florida Quarter Horse Racing

Florida Senate Committee on Agriculture members were surprised to learn during a presentation today, January 30, 2012, that Florida’s horse industry is a $5.1 billion economic driver that creates 104,700 total statewide jobs per year.  In fact, for each horse, seven jobs are created, according to the American Horse Council.  To view the presentation (begins on Page 86) click here.

Florida Horse Park officials, who gave this morning’s presentation, described Marion County as the “Horse Capital of the World.”   They outlined the extraordinary buying power of the people who come to Florida from all over the world to watch, ride and care for horses of all kinds.  Purchase of hotel rooms and lodging, food, gasoline, clothing, feed, veterinary services, horseshoeing and more are some of the reasons for the dramatic economic benefit of Florida’s horse industry. 

Even the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association CEO Carol Dover was on hand to discuss the importance of the horse industry to her organization’s members.  She explained that the sheer strength of Florida’s Thoroughbred racing industry provides the very infrastructure to encourage and warrant hoteliers’ investment.

Committee Chairman Gary Siplin introduced the presentation by explaining that Florida’s horse industry is one of the strongest industries in the state and has national impact.

Senator Alan Hays, himself an experienced horseman, said:  “We need to realize ancillary businesses that go with (the Florida horse) industry and the ripple effect of those dollars as they go through the state.  This is a hidden gem and we need to do everything we can to magnify the effect.”

If horses really do create jobs, the Legislature should note the success of legitimate Quarter Horse racing at Hialeah Park, which is out-earning “pari-mutuel barrel racing” by 99.1%.   

As evidence, nearly 1,000 accredited Quarter Horses are stabled at Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association-sanctioned Hialeah Park.  But Gretna’s entire “barrel racing” meet only requires 36 horses total—thus killing the positive impact that would otherwise be generated if Gretna Racing were to have used its permit for legitimate Quarter Horse racing instead of “barrel racing.” 

Gretna’s spurious use of its Quarter Horse permit to operate “pari-mutuel barrel racing” has deliberately cut the number of horses needed at its facility by over 96 percent.

Unfortunately, because no clear definition of “horse racing” yet exists, gambling regulators are free to consider what will further degrade the value of Florida’s otherwise-successful Quarter Horse racing and breeding industry by entertaining plans for six (6)  Quarter Horse licenses likely designed to cut live racing through spurious schemes like “barrel racing” that dramatically reduce the number of horses needed to create the very jobs and economic development acknowledged by our Senators today. 

It’s a fact:  Gretna and its copycat schemes are slaughtering, not growing Florida horse jobs and economic impact that would otherwise come with Florida’s legitimate racing and breeding industries. 

“Florida’s horse industry is not ‘dead’” explained Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association Executive Director Kent Stirling. “We are confident our legislators understand what we bring to the table and will work to protect it. This means ensuring that clever lawyering and loopholes are not allowed to trump job creation and economic development.”

Does Florida really want the economic and job creating benefits of legitimate live horse racing to be replaced by slots, cardrooms, poker, “pari-mutuel barrel racing” . . . .  or worse?

Legislators, we urge your awareness of this morning’s Senate Committee on Agriculture horse industry presentation and ask you to vote against any related pari-mutuel legislation that would serve to kill jobs and economic development of Florida’s horse racing and breeding industry.

For more information, contact:

  • Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association:   Kent Stirling, Executive Director (305) 628-2989 or khs0813@bellsouth.net
  • Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association and Florida Quarter Horse Breeders’ and Owners’ Association:  Dr. Steve Fisch, DVM (850) 510-9650 or sfischDVM@avsequinehospital.com


The United Florida Horsemen are:

National and Florida Barrel Horse Association (24,000 members)

American Quarter Horse Association (350,000 national members; 7,163 Florida members)

Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association (439 members)

U.S. Trotting Association (25,000 members)

Florida Standardbred Owners and Breeders Association (630 members)

Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association (1,300 members)

National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (35,000 members)

Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (5,000 members)




Pari-Mutuel Barrel Racing’s “North Florida Horsemen’s Association” Controlled by Gretna Racing, LLC Owners: Only in Florida Are Pari-Mutue​​ls Allowed to Own and Control Their Own Horsemen’s Unions

Pari-Mutuel Barrel Racing’s “North Florida Horsemen’s Association” Controlled by Gretna Racing, LLC Owners  

State of Florida Cheated Out of Literally 99.1 Percent Of Revenue It Could Be Earning Through Legitimate Quarter Horse Racing

Together with former third-generation Gulfstream Park attorney David Romanik, Gulfstream Park lobbyist Marc Dunbar is the part-owner of Gretna Racing, LLC, which is causing a deliberate horse racing industry decimation and dramatic loss of State revenue by having unilaterally introduced “pari-mutuel barrel racing” in North Florida.  This outright mockery of Florida law is enabled by these individuals’ own non-profit corporation known as the “North Florida Horsemen’s Association.”

Because the “North Florida Horsemen’s Association” is controlled by Dunbar and Romanik, revenues from Gretna’s cardrooms and, ultimately, slot machines, can easily be funneled back to their self-owned Gretna Racing, LLC, not to the “North Florida Horsemen’s Association” members who have unwittingly signed away their State and Federal purse negotiating rights.  These unsuspecting horsemen and women don’t realize that their rights to Gretna Racing’s revenues would otherwise be ensured under both Florida law and the Federal Interstate Horse Racing Act of 1978, the intent of which was never to have tracks own their own horsemen’s unions, since without ensuring lucrative purses to attract competitors, horse racing of any kind ceases to be a proper economic driver and job creator for any state.

If legitimate Quarter Horse racing sanctioned by the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association (“FQHRA”) was taking place at Gretna Racing instead, these horsemen’s interests would otherwise be protected.  What’s worse, the irony is that legitimate Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association sanctioned Quarter Horse racing at Hialeah Park is out-earning Gretna “pari-mutuel barrel racing” by 99.1 percent, as reported to the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering.  Gretna Racing only pays $19.64 per day in pari-mutuel taxes.

With only 36 horses needed to complete Gretna’s entire “pari-mutuel barrel racing” meet, versus nearly 1,000 that are stabled right now at Hialeah Park, the FQHRA’s success, in turn, spurs economic development and job creation in both the racing and breeding industries, since that revenue is properly shared with horsemen according to State and Federal law,  thanks to the FQHRA.  As further evidence, Hialeah’s legitimate Quarter Horse meet has 803 licensed pari-mutuel employees registered at its facility, whereas Gretna Racing has only 38 comparable licensees.  Documented attendance at Hialeah Park averages 4,100 per day.  The Associated Press and other major media reported Gretna Racing to attract only 20-50 people per day.

But the fact is, Dunbar and Romanik are actually now profiting at Gretna Racing from the very same business plan that they, themselves, are suing the law-abiding horsemen’s associations for.  During 2011, Dunbar and Romanik launched a spurious lawsuit against the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association and the Florida Quarter Horse Breeders’ and Owners’ Association, in which they claim damage from what the Florida Legislature ordained these statutory organizations to do:  Protect horsemen’s rights.

Nearly 450,000 members of United Florida Horsemen feel that the Florida Legislature should not support or negotiate with any person or entity that is currently engaged in a lawsuit designed to destroy horsemen’s livelihoods through self-dealing by means of dummy, self-owned horsemen’s associations designed exclusively to funnel pari-mutuel, card room and slot machine profits back to the track owners, rather than to properly disburse it to horsemen according to law.

To view State of Florida documentation on the ownership of “North Florida Horsemen’s Association,” click here.

The above information is based on reported Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering data.

Filing Information

Document Number:  N09000005229
Date Filed:  05/29/2009
State:  FL
Status:  ACTIVE
Principal Address 215 SOUTH MONROE STREET, 2ND FLOOR TALLAHASSEE FL 32301-1839
Mailing Address P.O. BOX 10095 TALLAHASSEE FL 32302-2095

Registered Agent Name & Address:  DUNBAR, MARC W 215 SOUTH MONROE STREET, 2ND FLOOR TALLAHASSEE FL 32301-1839
US Officer/Director Detail Name & Address Title D:  ROMANIK, DAVID S 215 SOUTH MONROE STREET, 2ND FLOOR TALLAHASSEE FL 32301-1839
04/11/2011 — ANNUAL REPORT
04/09/2010 — ANNUAL REPORT

05/29/2009 — Domestic Non-Profit

The United Florida Horsemen are:
·         National and Florida Barrel Horse Association (24,000 members)
·         American Quarter Horse Association (350,000 national members; 7,163 Florida members)
·         Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association (439 members)
·         U.S. Trotting Association (25,000 members)
·         Florida Standardbred Owners and Breeders Association (630 members)
·         Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association (1,300 members)
·         National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (35,000 members)
·         Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (5,000 members)


Ray Paulick’s The Breeders’ Cup Forum: Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association (FTBOA) Chief Lonny Powell

The Breeders’ Cup Forum: FTBOA Chief Lonny Powell

by Ray Paulick | 01.25.2012 | 6:38am

Earlier this month, Lonny Powell assumed his duties as CEO of the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association, replacing longtime executive Richard Hancock, who retired Dec. 31 in the wake of growing dissatisfaction rippling throughout the FTBOA’s membership.

Powell has a resume that encompasses racetrack management (from small tracks like Longacres and Turf Paradise to large ones like Santa Anita), advance deposit wagering, regulatory and legislative issues, and higher education.  He has served as a director/member on numerous industry boards and task forces, as well as industry charities.

Santa Anita

What are your immediate goals in your new role at FTBOA?
I want to have an immediate positive impact on the spirit of the staff, membership and entire association. We will do so by clearly and enthusiastically declaring that this is a period of re-tooling, new vision and forward thinking.

Enhanced communications on all levels with a new focus on individual as well as team accountability will bring our office and Association up to the level of expectations we have for FTBOA.
I think the most positive feedback I have gotten so far has been based on the reception over my own personal style and personality – a consummate communicator, very outgoing, not afraid to debate, a straight-shooter, speaks from experience, big sense of humor.
As you know, I really do love and understand this business and would guess that I have one of the most diverse and successful backgrounds. I try to be a good listener and am always trying to learn more. I am a big people/relationship person with a major work ethic and strong moral and leadership compass.

I want my members and Association to have no doubt and feel comfortable at all times that their CEO has the level of experience, street smarts, brains, fortitude, confidence and presence to best represent their collective needs and interests.
We are about a new vision and esprit de corps.

What are the biggest challenges the FTBOA faces, and what are its greatest resources?
Like any breed association, we continue to keep our eyes on the national, regional and local foal crops. That plus a very dynamic state gaming market keeps a guy like me in an industry CEO position like this on point and looking for every possible intended and unintended ramification.

Our greatest resources remain our quality home breds, nationally renowned racing scene, and, of course, our people – those who invest incredible increments of time and treasure in order to breed and/or own Florida Thoroughbreds.

How do you build consensus between the small breeders and larger operations?

If you step back and think about it, this is one of the constant challenges faced by any membership organization How do we represent and take care of all levels of membership … from large to small to in between … from recruiting new members to retaining existing members?

When I was at RCI (Association of Racing Commissioners International), it was more of an issue for “big” states and provinces (in terms of industry and wagering) not wanting to see their votes smothered over by the “little” jurisdictions. When on the TRA (Thoroughbred Racing Associations) Board, it was oftentimes “the big tracks vs the little tracks.”

There is no perfect way to represent competitive and sometimes disparate parties. What we need to do as leaders within our associations is always remain cognizant as to the somewhat different needs and perspectives and points of view that exist across our membership and industry segments. I try to unite and collaborate when working towards some reasonable level of consensus. This type of ability to work and cooperate with others has helped me significantly throughout my career and life.

Have you studied or immersed yourself in Florida breeding enough to have an understanding of why, in a state rich in Thoroughbred tradition, the foal crop and stallion population has declined so significantly at the same time slot machines were added to the two South Florida racetracks?
What we all need to keep in mind (are you listening out there “have-not states”?) is just because we have Racinos does not mean that the hard work is over. In fact, I would suggest that the work has only just begun.

There are also plenty of other competitive Racino markets that pull breeding stock such as New York, Pennsylvania and Louisiana based on the programs and economic incentives offered in those other states.

The good news from an indicator perspective is it seems like our stallion numbers have hit bottom and now are slowly climbing back up. We are also seeing a little more life on the sales front at places like here at OBS and Kentucky, which also gives some cautious optimism.

How to you stop the declines in the number of mares and stallions and reverse course?
It’s so much about the economics. That’s why we target economic growth and diversification as always in play objectives to shoot for. We need more indoctrinated and prospective owners. We need to give the farm owners enough faith and confidence for the future so that they just don’t sell out the farmland to developers.

Are there other states with better-designed or more effective incentive programs?
I’m sure there are a number of other programs that POTENTIALLY may offer better features or programs. I want us to take a look at what’s out there as well as what might be possible if we could totally reinvent the wheel when it comes to state incentive programs.

You know me, as is the case in everything I have done in this business – track, association, regulatory authority, academic program , ADW, etc.  – from a leadership perspective is based on: a) no “sacred cows”; b) no baggage; c) no pre-conceived notions that we do everything either right or wrong; d) no pride in authorship or insecure need to be the smartest person in the room.

Therefore, anything and everything we do is up for review and possible enhancement.

Will you recommend a review of the Florida program?

That’s already on my list once the dust settles. We will not just review it because of me being the new CEO; we will look at key economic drivers such as our Florida-bred program on an ongoing basis so that we might continue to modify and evolve in order to best meet the needs of our membership.

The loss of revenue to ADW wagering has been singled out as a problem. Is there a way to reclaim a greater share?

This is really a challenge. On one hand, nobody wants to crush or weaken legitimate ADW as it provides the only pari-mutuel growth channel in the industry today. The convenience and quick accessibility and variety associated with the activity make it a fan favorite. It is here to stay (and must).

The issue, to the point you raise, is all about the fairness in revenue splits. In Florida, ADW certainly impacts my members – the breeders and farm owners. Our law says that for every dollar wagered in Florida we, the Florida breeders, are to receive X%.

My organization and membership have a very strong suspicion that the breeders are not being remunerated by ADW at the level granted to us by law.

This remains a HUGE issue to the FTBOA. It negatively impacts our economics as an Association plus those of our members each and every day. Should there not be a timely and sensible business fix from the ADWs to us, we will investigate and/or pursue other possible means including political or legal. We are hopeful that the solution can be kept a common sense one via either creative and proactive business conversations or legislative touches. We are not looking for our entitled share to come out of the HBPA’s purses, wagering customers’ commission or even the track’s share; the margin is on the ADW’s side, so they and  their contracting client tracks will need to address it pretty darn soon.

What will you do differently in terms of lobbying in Tallahassee? What are the biggest challenges there?
Everyone has a little bit different style and philosophy when it comes to lobbying. I’m a real hands-on type of guy when it comes to lobbying for my organizations, members and stakeholders. I have been also blessed by having access to the services of some of the finest lobbyists out there – including the great individual we have on our Tallahassee team as we speak. I enjoy the political arena part of our game about as much as any aspect. I devote considerable time to the activity. I have been a registered lobbyist in California, Washington, Oregon, Arizona, and now Florida.

No matter what state capitol you are working, when it has to do with Thoroughbreds or pari-mutuels, our challenges always remain: a) maintaining  a perception of unity and peace; b) doing your economic homework; c) developing a realistic and collaborative strategy; d) represent credibility and integrity;  e) keep relevant; f) develop relationships and access.

I see Florida racing and breeding needing to continue walking and talking both sides of the very dynamic debate over the destination resort casino environment we find ourselves in. There is also a certain level of political and public relations backlash regarding the pathetic pari-mutuel barrel racing effort that could have some negative unintended consequences on those who try to play by the rules and do things right.

Anytime there are this many gaming interests, scope and bills during one single session, we must also prepare for the possibility of no racing or gaming bills being heard this session.

I plan to work closely with my racing brethren on legislative and regulatory issues as much as reasonably possible and will try not to surprise. I prefer to settle differences behind the scenes and away from the stage.  I would much rather collaborate on versus lone wolf legislation. 


Veteran Calder Race Course-based Thoroughbred Trainer Bill Kaplan Wins 2011 Champion Female Sprinter Eclipse Award By Landslide

Musical Romance Hits Highest Note

By Lenny Shulman

Updated: Monday, January 16, 2012 9:36 PM


Musical Romance completed her rags-to-riches story when she was named champion female sprinter for 2011. As bigger names such as Turbulent Descent, Hilda’s Passion, Switch, and Sassy Image garnered the publicity through the early and middle stages of the season, the daughter of Concorde’s Tune was improving steadily under the radar.

The final balloting showed Musical Romance with 131 votes, Hilda’s Passion with 53, and Sassy Image getting 46.

A $22,000 purchase out of a 2-year-old sale, Musical Romance blossomed under the tutelage of veteran Florida trainer Bill Kaplan, who purchased her out of the consignment of her breeder, Ocala Stud. Kaplan, who co-owns the filly with Adam Lazarus’ Pinnacle Racing Stables, had an iron horse on his hands. Musical Romance made 13 starts as a 3-year-old in 2010, and came back in 2011 to race 14 times.

After scoring a pair of minor 2011 stakes victories at Calder in South Florida, Musical Romance tipped her hand in the July 9 Princess Rooney Handicap (gr. I), where she ran second a neck to the highly regarded Sassy Image. After another Calder stakes win, Kaplan and Lazarus took their filly on the road, where she won the Sept. 10 Presque Isle Downs Masters Stakes (gr. II) and ran a solid second in the Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes (gr. II) at Keeneland.

There was no stopping her in the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (gr. I), where she held off Switch by 1 1/4 lengths, becoming a millionaire for the season.

Lazarus furthers the rags-to-riches theme. The New Jersey native moved to Florida hoping to become a sportscaster, and wound up a successful copy machines salesman whose father is a golfing buddy of Kaplan’s. When Lazarus decided to put together racing partnerships on a small scale, his father introduced him to Kaplan, and now the connections have an Eclipse Award for their trophy case.

“To go where we have with this filly is beyond our imagination,” noted Lazarus. “This (Eclipse) means so much to us.”

Read more: http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/67002/musical-romance-hits-highest-note#ixzz1jil0z9Ud

Racing, Gaming on Florida Legislative Agenda, Jim Freer of the Blood-Horse Reports; Eradication of Gretna Pari-Mutuel Barrel Racing Trumps Destination Resorts on Gaming Agenda

Racing, Gaming on Florida Legislative Agenda

Updated: Thursday, January 12, 2012 9:03 AM
Posted: Wednesday, January 11, 2012 9:01 AM
Racing, Gaming on Florida Legislative Agenda

Photo: Coglianese Photos
Gulfstream Park and several large casino companies are among entities that have expressed interest in owning and operating a destination resort.

The Florida legislature began a two-month session Jan. 10 with a big part of its focus on a wide-ranging gaming bill that could lead to the first all-games casinos in the state along with other changes that would impact the Thoroughbred industry.

Meanwhile, Florida’s Thoroughbred horsemen and breeders’ associations are putting priority on working for passage of a separate bill, sponsored by important committee chairman Sen. Dennis Jones, that would prohibit pari-mutuel barrel racing in the state.

The large-scale bill is stirring controversy, especially from opponents of gaming, primarily because it would authorize at least three destination resort/hotels that would have full-scale Las Vegas-style casinos with the state’s first craps tables and roulette games. Gulfstream Park and several large casino companies are among entities that have expressed interest in owning and operating a destination resort.

Details, including whether Thoroughbred tracks and other pari-mutuel facilities would obtain any tax concessions or new gaming products, have undergone several changes in pre-session hearings. Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff introduced the bill in November.

While supporters maintain that destination resorts, starting with license fees, could help Florida’s economy, there is a widespread view that the full legislature will not approve the bill. Republican House Speaker Dean Cannon and several other leaders in both houses have told daily newspapers they will not support any bills that include the expansion of gaming.

Jones noted the bill permits only 10% of a destination resort’s space for a casino. The remainder would include the hotel and exhibit space for trade shows and conventions.

“Florida is already one of the biggest gaming states,” Jones said. “I would hope that this bill would be viewed as a way to create jobs and bring more conventions and revenue to Florida.”

As of Jan. 10 the legislation included several so-called parity provisions that would be favorable for pari-mutuel outlets. Jones is among the senators that favor providing some incentives for pari-mutuel facilities if destination resorts are authorized.

The two southeast counties of Miami-Dade and Broward are the only Florida counties in which pari-mutuel facilities can have slot machines. They pay a state tax of 35% on revenue from Las Vegas-style slots.

Gulfstream and Calder Casino & Race Course are among five facilities with the machines. Hialeah Park plans to open a casino with slots if it wins a lawsuit now under consideration by the Supreme Court of Florida.

The latest version of the bill would allow the racetracks to have casino games available to destination resorts if they open in either county. The southeast counties’ pari-mutuel outlets would pay the same 10% tax rate as the resorts.

If destination resorts open, pari-mutuel facilities in other Florida counties would be able to have video lottery terminals. Tampa Bay Downs would be among the eligible facilities.

Removal of the parity provisions is among the possible changes the legislation may see in the next several weeks.

Gulfstream officials said they were reviewing the bill and thus declined to comment. Gulfstream president and general manager Tim Ritvo previously told The Blood-Horse that Gulfstream would like to be considered as a destination resort site.

The bill would create a Florida Gaming Commission that would review bids for the sites. The commission would replace the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering as the regulator of Thoroughbred racetracks.

The legislature is scheduled to end its session March 9. There are prospects it could extend the session or that Gov. Rick Scott could call a special session for later in the year.

Breeders’ Cup bill resurfaces

Identical bills in the House and Senate would allow Hialeah Park to again hold annual Thoroughbred meets, provided it becomes a site for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. The measure was first discussed in 2011.

The bills authorize the Florida DPMW to issue a “Breeders’ Cup Permanent Meet” permit at the facility of a Florida horseracing permit-holder that becomes the permanent site of the Breeders’ Cup or is selected to be among tracks in a rotation for the annual two-day event.

The holder of the permit would be allowed to conduct a Thoroughbred meet each year from early November through Nov. 30, including years when it does not hold the Breeders’ Cup. Sponsors of the bills are Republican Rep. Eduardo Gonzalez and Sen. Rene Garcia, who both represent the Hialeah district.

The bills do not mention any facilities by name, but they include language on obtaining a casino license that is in line with Hialeah Park’s goals.

Opposition can be expected from several pari-mutuel facilities, most notably Calder. Under the bill, Calder would relinquish its important November race dates to long-time rival Hialeah with tax credits in return.

Hialeah has not held Thoroughbred races since 2001 and no longer has a Thoroughbred license. It is holding its third Quarter Horse meet through Feb.19.

Measure targets barrel racing

The prohibition of pari-mutuel barrel racing is a centerpiece of legislation its sponsor, Jones, calls “the pari-mutuel clean-up bill.” He is chairman of the Senate Regulated Industries Committee, which has initial Senate jurisdiction over gaming issues.

Passage of the bill would achieve a goal of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association and the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association by preventing holders of Quarter Horse permits from following Gretna Racing near Tallahassee from  using them to hold pari-mutuel barrel racing. The Thoroughbred associations view Gretna’s racing as a low-cost way to obtain licenses for year-round poker rooms.

The Thoroughbred associations are allied with the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association and the Florida Quarter Horse Breeders and Owners Association on the barrel racing issue.

Phil Combest, president of the Florida HBPA, said that in meetings with legislators horsemen will emphasize that barrel racing is illegal competition for gaming dollars for the Thoroughbred industry, which has been a long-standing major employer in Florida.

Gretna Racing has been able to hold barrel racing, rather than traditional flat track Quarter Horse racing, because Florida laws specify the breeds of horses but not the types of races that must be held with horse racing licenses.

The bill states that “horse racing does not include steeplechases, hurdle races, barrel racing, timed events, pole pending, or any other rodeo” or related events. The bill also states that Quarter Horse racing may be conducted only “on a straight path on a traditional oval or straight path.”

Jones said Gretna Racing is “operating through a loophole in the law, and this would close it.”

If passed the bill would become effective July 1, 2012. Jones said he is uncertain whether Gretna Racing and any other facilities that begin pari-mutuel barrel racing would be able to continue that activity.

In a related issue, the wider-ranging bill would revoke all “dormant” pari-mutuel permits unless permit holders obtain licenses for them by July 1, 2012. Facing the prospect of revocation, five holders of Quarter Horse permits have applied for licenses with the Florida DPMW since late December 2011.

They are the Ocala Breeders Sales Co.; Isle Casino & Racing at Pompano Park; South Marion Real Estate; Debary Real Estate; and Hamilton Downs. Information on whether any of those applicants plan to hold conventional Quarter Horse racing or barrel racing was not readily available.

Read more: http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/66903/racing-gaming-on-florida-legislative-agenda#ixzz1jeebshx0

Gulfstream Park Chairman Frank Stronach On Central Florida Land Buying Spree for Racetrack-Golf Course-Pasture Irrigation-Abattoir-Cattle Research Center? Watery Foundation Reports

ROB MACK/Ocala Star Banner Staff graphic

Where’s the beef? Industrialist and renowned horseman Frank Stronach plans to put up to 6,000 cattle and a slaughterhouse on 24,000 acres he has purchased around Fort McCoy.

Racetrack-Golf Course-Pasture Irrigation-Abattoir-Cattle Research Center?

Posted on January 16, 2012 by

Frank Stronach, a Canadian billionaire who already operates a racing track in south Florida, has decided that central Florida needs a new upscale golf course as well as a new cattle ranch and slaughterhouse. The cattle ranch and abattoir are supposed to need 13 million gallons of water day (more than Ocala uses), mostly to irrigate fertilized pasture for 30,000 cattle. The St. Johns River Water Management District, having receiving the $1,000.00 permit application fee, is now assessing whether to issue the permit. There is no fee at all for withdrawing the 13 mgd from the aquifer. Stronach’s donation to the University of Florida for the “Frank Stronach Plant Science Center” cost much more: $1.5 million.

Is this the path to a prosperous and sustainable water 21st century future for Florida: giving away the state’s water to billionaires, while promoting race tracks, irrigated pastures, abattoirs, and golf courses?

Billionaire to put cattle ranch on property

Saturday, August 6, 2011 at 11:26 p.m.


Car parts magnate and Marion County horseman Frank Stronach seeks to bring a new venture to his adopted community: a sprawling cattle ranch.

The Canadian billionaire plans to establish a state-of-the-art cattle harvesting facility near Fort McCoy that would provide 150 jobs to the economically distressed north Marion community, Stronach’s representatives said.

Barring any setbacks, the facility is expected to be in operation by Oct. 1, 2012.

Mark Roberts, manager of Stronach’s Adena Springs South farm, said his boss has been on a systematic land-buying spree in recent months.

Stronach has already acquired, or has under contract, roughly 24,000 acres for the Fort McCoy project, Roberts said.

Stronach, meanwhile, is in negotiations to acquire hundreds of additional acres nearby.

Stronach has purchased thousands more acres in neighboring Levy County to create a second cattle ranch that will support the Marion operation, known as Adena Ranches.

Stronach has spent $62 million obtaining land in the two counties, Roberts said. By the time the other acquisitions are settled, his investment will top $80 million.

That excludes another $30 million expense for the 61,000-square-foot abattoir — and a related biomass energy plant that will power it — that would be a larger version of a plant in Edmonton, Canada.

Stronach, Roberts said, is promising a clean, quiet, odor-free operation that would provide a “low-stress” environment for the cattle as well as the neighbors.

Under the plan, the harvesting facility would be located in the heart of the property — 1½ miles west of County Road 315 and at least a mile from the nearest residence.

“You’re not going to know it’s there unless you work there,” said Jimmy Gooding, an Ocala lawyer representing Stronach in the project.

Much of the property is currently wooded, and while some would be cleared for pasture and the harvesting house, Stronach intends to retain trees on as much as 40 percent of the land for commercial timber operations.

“I’ve never seen this amount of buffer for a commercial facility,” Gooding added.

According to Roberts, Stronach’s vision is to raise, harvest and sell all-natural, hormone-free, grass-fed beef cattle to supply to his “built-in customer base” in his other operations throughout the country, as well as to restaurants.

Stronach, 78, owns thoroughbred racing tracks in Florida, Maryland and California, and has won the sport’s top award for breeders multiple times.

Although he sold off most of his holdings in June, and thus surrendered control of the company, Stronach remains a director of Magna International, the tool-and-die company he started in 1957 and built into the largest auto-parts supplier in North America.

That deal, which took 11 months to complete, netted Stronach $970 million, according to Bloomberg News.

Roberts said Stronach has expressed interest in launching his own chain of restaurants, which would feature his Fort McCoy-harvested beef, dubbed Adena Meats.

Roberts acknowledged that Adena Ranches would be a departure from his employer’s usual business model. But, he added, Stronach is a farmer at heart.

“Frank’s feeling is that in the times ahead, food production is going to be a major thing. It’s just getting harder and harder because of a lack of land,” Roberts said.

Besides, Roberts added, “Owning land is never a bad thing.”

Yet Stronach also hopes to appeal to a growing demand, as stated by some food providers, for locally produced agriculture.

At the same time, Stronach is targeting a specific market within the industry, according to the Florida Cattleman’s Association.

All cattle start out with a grass-based diet and spend the majority of their lives grazing in a pasture. But they don’t end up that way.

Most beef cattle, the association points out, are switched to a grain-based diet just before they are harvested, spending between four and six months housed in a feedlot, or a feedyard.

This period is sometimes called the “finishing phase,” and the animals are attended by professional nutritionists, veterinarians and employees who daily monitor the cattle’s health.

In contrast, “grass-finished” cattle tend to take more time and resources to reach appropriate market weight, and thus tend to cost consumers more, the association notes.

Ashley Hughes, marketing director for the Florida Beef Council, explained in an email that because of the resources involved and the climatic conditions needed, grass-finished cattle constitute a “very small segment” of the beef industry.

Hughes also observed that Florida ranchers tend to ship their cattle to the feedlots in the Midwest because it costs less than raising those animals in Florida.

Cheap corn holds down the production costs, despite the transportation expenses, she added.

“I applaud this company for reaching out to a growing niche market in Florida. However, the majority of Americans still base their decisions on food purchases with their wallets, and commercial beef is humanely raised by cattle men and women who produce an inexpensive, yet safe, wholesome and delicious beef product.”

As now planned, the Fort McCoy site would be home to between 6,000 and 7,000 head of cattle, Roberts said.

The Levy County site would contain about the same number.

But the butchering would be conducted only at the Marion facility, which will start slowly but in time could process 300 head daily.

The beef would be quartered and stored in refrigerated units on the site and shipped out to customers, Roberts said.

Further processing could occur there in the future, Roberts added, but is not in the immediate plans.

The offal and the blood would be captured and shipped off for other uses, he said.

Stronach must obtain a special-use permit from the County Commission for the harvesting facility before proceeding.

Gooding said that application would be filed this week.

The project should go to the Zoning Commission for a recommendation in September and to the County Commission for final consideration and approval in October.

If approved, the project could be under way as early as November, with construction ending in fall 2012.

Gooding said the proponents are bracing for c.

The harvesting facility would use about 50,000 gallons of water a day, with 90 percent of that recycled for irrigating the pastures, according to Gooding.

The amount of water needed for the pastures is unknown at this point because the design of the project is not yet finished, he added.

Stronach is seeking approval for that from state water managers, Gooding said.

Roberts wanted to reassure potential critics that this would not be business as usual for the cattle.

The herd would be bred on-site, and the animals, as they mature, would be gradually shepherded from one end of the ranch to the other until meeting their fate — a moment, Roberts emphasized, that would be stress-free.

“Our philosophy on this is the well being of the animal,” he said. “Frank loves animals and doesn’t want to see any of them suffer.”

source:  ocala.com

Read the Latest:

OPPAGA Review of the St. Johns River Water Supply Impact Study: Final Report


The St. Johns River Water Management District is responsible for managing water resources in the St. Johns River basin, which comprises 23% of Florida. Approximately 4.73 million people live in the area served by the district, which contains the cities of Jacksonville, Orlando, and Gainesville. To meet increasing water supply needs, the district is considering supplementing its historical supply of groundwater with water from the St. Johns and Ocklawaha Rivers. Eight workgroups were established to model the relevant river basins, determine the criteria to evaluate the environmental impacts of water withdrawals, evaluate the extent of those impacts, and coordinate with other ongoing projects. This report focuses on the ecological impact analyses conducted by the workgroups, presents final thoughts about the hydrologic and hydrodynamic studies, and provides some overall perspectives on the impact study.