Former Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Regulation Director Milton Champion Testifies Pari-Mutuel Barrel Racing A “Joke” and “Embarrassment” to the State of Florida

Former Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering Director Milton Champion testified in Florida Administrative Court this week that the licensing of barrel racing as a pari-mutuel event was “a joke” and “an embarrassment” to the State of Florida.

With his testimony on June 27, 2012 marking the fifth day of the final hearing on the issue of whether “pari-mutuel barrel racing” has been allowed as a new gambling product in Florida without enabling legislation, regulatory hearings or public input, Champion recounted how he was dismissed from his Director position for not approving Gretna Racing LLC’s racing license.  Gretna Racing subsequently used the license to hold “pari-mutuel barrel racing” instead of the legitimate Quarter Horse racing to which it had initially committed.

(Note:  The State of Florida mandates that pari-mutuel permitholders must hold live horse racing in order to operate 365-day cardrooms and slot machines.  With the State having unilaterally declared “pari-mutuel barrel racing” as “horse racing,” Gretna Racing secured the ability to operate cardrooms and quickly moved to gain its slot machine license.  However, because “pari-mutuel barrel racing” is specifically designed to sharply curtail the need for racehorses and their inherent job creation value, the Florida horse racing and breeding industry’s  $2.2 billion statewide economic impact stands to diminish accordingly.)

For the hearing, Gretna Racing co-owners Marc Dunbar and David Romanik are actively litigating as “intervenors” on behalf of Florida’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, which granted their North Florida-based pari-mutuel facility the same license in question. 

Champion further testified that he was asked to resign after his superior, Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation Commissioner Ken Lawson was instructed to effect the dismissal by Florida Governor Rick Scott’s now-departed Chief of Staff Steve Macnamara.

The Miami Herald’s Mary Ellen Klas reported on May 6, 2012:  “In an email to MacNamara in August, Marc Dunbar, a lawyer and part-owner of a horse track in Gadsden County, complained about the division’s staff and hoped MacNamara could get them into shape. MacNamara had worked together at Dunbar’s law firm and listed the firm as a source of income on his financial disclosure forms as recently as 2010.

In September, Dunbar and his partners asked the division for permission to run rodeo-style barrel racing as a parimutuel sport, instead of the quarter horse racing they had intended when they obtained the permit. Shortly afterwards, Champion said he was called into Department of Business and Professional Secretary Ken Lawson’s office. “He told me Marc Dunbar is close with the governor’s chief of staff and they want me to resign, so I resigned,’’ Champion said.

Champion now says that while “the law may not be clearly defined,’’ had he remained at the agency he “would have strongly suggested we not approve it.”

MacNamara said Champion was asked to resign because his wife worked at the Seminole Hard Rock as head of surveillance. While the state does not regulate the tribe, it does regulate their competitors. But Champion said he had disclosed his wife’s job when he was hired to head the division five years ago and again when he was reappointed to the post when Scott came to office.

With Champion gone, the division then approved the barrel racing switch, a move which Dunbar and his partners hope will allow the track to get slot machines.”

 

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State of Florida Overstepped Authority on “Pari-Mutuel Barrel Racing” Says FHBPA Executive Director Kent Stirling in Florida Voices “My Turn” Column

By Kent Stirling, Executive Director, Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association

A continued final hearing was held this week on the propriety of the state awarding a racing license to Gretna Racing LLC for a brand new form of gambling it calls “pari-mutuel barrel racing.”

Nearly 450,000 horsemen in eight Florida and national organizations have agreed that the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering overstepped its regulatory authority and created an unpromulgated rule in awarding the license to Gretna Racing.

Normally, the introduction of a new gambling product into the market 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,” none of that process occurred.

Now enabled to minimally meet Florida live racing requirements for poker and slot machine licensing through “pari-mutuel barrel racing,” other Florida pari-mutuel permit-holders are in line to leverage this new gambling product to acquire slot machines without conducting legitimate horse racing.

Of paramount concern to Florida’s racing industry, “pari-mutuel barrel racing” plummets the need for approximately 2,000 horses at a typical racetrack to just eight per day, of which the same eight horses can, and have been used over and over again, while the card rooms stay open 365 days a year.  Legitimate horse racing is documented to employ over 50,000 Floridians per year who produce over $2.2 billion in statewide economic impact.

The implications of allowing ‘pari-mutuel barrel racing’ to decimate the enormous economic impact of Florida’s heretofore successful horse racing and breeding industry are dire. The State of Florida cannot afford to allow clever lawyering and loopholes to destroy its internationally known horse racing and breeding industry in this manner.

Kent Stirling is executive director of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association, which comprises over 6,000 Thoroughbred horsemen. He can be reached at floridahorsemen@gmail.com.

 

 

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Overruled! Marc Dunbar Defending Gretna “Pari-Mutuel Barrel Racing” On Behalf of State of Florida; Gray Rohrer of the Florida Current Reports: Fight over barrel racing license resumes

Fight over barrel racing license resumes

By Gray Rohrer, 06/26/2012

Testimony continued Tuesday in an administrative court case over a barrel racing license issued to Gretna Racing LLC.

Legal fireworks ensued as attorneys for the quarter horse racing industry tried to get state regulators with the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering to admit they issued a license for betting on barrel racing – the first of its kind in the country – in violation of state statutes.

“The issuance of a license for this type of racing … is contrary to their own rules,” said Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association attorney Steve Menton while asking questions of Jamie Pouncey, a license administrator with the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering.

Menton was interrupted several times while interviewing Pouncey. Gretna Racing attorney and part-owner Marc Dunbar objected to the relevance and type of questions put to Pouncey, who he said shouldn’t be allowed to answer questions that constitute a legal opinion.

“What does the date of a Hialeah racing permit have to do with the matter before us?” Dunbar asked when Menton brought up procedures used to give licenses to a South Florida racetrack.

Administrative Court Judge Cathy Sellers overruled most of Dunbar’s objections.

The FQHRA and the American Quarter Horse Association filed their suit last year, contending that Gretna Racing’s license to conduct pari-mutuel wagering on horse races in a rodeo arena around a set-up of barrels instead of on a traditional quarter horse track is contrary to state law. The administrative court hearing began in April but was extended because of the length of witness testimony. The hearing is expected to last until Thursday.

Related Research: Access all documents related to Division of Administrative Hearings Case No. 11-005796RU

Reporter Gray Rohrer can be reached at grohrer@thefloridacurrent.com.

“Pari-Mutuel Barrel Racing” Hearing Resumes in Tallahassee, Florida Division of Administrative Hearings on June 26, 2012

“Pari-Mutuel Barrel Racing” Hearing Resumes in Tallahassee June 26, 2012

A continued final hearing on the issue of whether “pari-mutuel barrel racing” has been allowed in Florida without enabling legislation, regulatory hearings or public input will begin tomorrow, June 26, 2012, at the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings in Tallahassee (Hearing Room 7, DeSoto Building, 1230 Apalachee Parkway, 9:00 a.m. (ET). 

After what was supposed to be the final day of a three-day hearing on April 11, 2012, at least six witnesses still remained to testify in the case (Case No: 11-005796RU), which involves a dispute over the award of a racing license by the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering to Gretna Racing LLC. 

Since the award of its license, Gretna Racing has used it to conduct a brand new form of gambling it calls “pari-mutuel barrel racing.” 
 
Nearly 450,000 horsemen in eight Florida and national organizations have agreed that the Division’s license award to Gretna Racing was an overstep of regulatory authority and constitutes an unpromulgated Rule.
 
Normally, the introduction of a new gambling product into the market 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,” none of that process occurred.
 
Now enabled to minimally meet Florida live racing requirements for poker and slot machine licensing through “pari-mutuel barrel racing,” other Florida pari-mutuel permitholders are in line to leverage this new gambling product to acquire slot machines without conducting legitimate horse racing.

Of paramount concern to Florida’s racing industry, “pari-mutuel barrel racing” plummets the need for approximately 2,000 horses at a typical racetrack to just 8 per day, of which the same 8 horses can, and have been used over and over again, while the cardrooms stay open 365 days a year.  Legitimate horse racing is documented to employ over 50,000 Floridians per year who produce over $2.2 billion in statewide economic impact.  
 
“The implications of allowing ‘pari-mutuel barrel racing’ to decimate the enormous economic impact of Florida’s heretofore successful horse racing and breeding industry are dire.   The State of Florida cannot afford to allow clever lawyering and loopholes to destroy its internationally known horse racing and breeding industry in this manner,” remarked Kent Stirling, Executive Director for the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, which comprises over 6,000 Thoroughbred horsemen.

 

To view the entire case history and docket for tomorrow’s hearing, go to the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings Web site and click here.

 

 

For further information, please contact the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association at (305) 625-4591.

Visit our blog at www.FloridaHorsemen.com

 

Magic City Loophole Lawyer John Lockwood Tells The Florida Current: Repeal of slot machine rules won’t have much of an effect on pari-mutuel business

The Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering (DPMW) was set to consider the repeal of various Rules relating to slot machine and pari-mutuel regulation at a hearing on Monday, June 18, 2012  in Tallahassee.   The hearing was scheduled to place less than 10 days before the DPMW resumes defense of its license award to Gretna Racing LLC’s “pari-mutuel barrel racing” in administrative court.

(Hyperlinks to the referenced Rules are provided below)

Gray Rohrer of The Florida Current reports:

Gaming rules to be repealed without hearing

Gray Rohrer, 06/18/2012

A meeting to repeal about a dozen rules regulating pari-mutuel and slot machines operations scheduled for Monday was cancelled when no one requested a hearing.

Since a hearing was not held, the filing deadline for the rule repeals is Aug. 23, and they will take effect Sept. 12.

The rules that are slated to be repealed would do away with state requirements for:

* a $15,000 fee to pay for an initial background investigation for a pari-mutuel permit;
* information given to regulators on amendments to lease agreements for pari-mutuel permits;
* a report to be kept on site detailing the amount and types of jobs related to slot machine operations;
* keeping an updated list of a slot operator’s minimum security staff levels;
* and protocols surrounding electronic money transfers.

According to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which houses gaming industry regulator Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, the rules were targeted for repeal as part of Gov. Rick Scott’s executive order 11-01 directing state agencies to find obsolete, duplicative or overly burdensome rules to eliminate.

Related Research: Read Executive Order Number 2011-01.

Requirements to provide reports on slot machine jobs and security staffing levels are “no longer necessary” because “federal and state employment laws require companies to maintain accurate and current job descriptions for each position so employees who are hired are aware of the expectations related to their jobs,” said DBPR spokeswoman Sandi Poreda.

Pari-mutuel operators that offer slots said the repeal of the rules won’t have much of an effect on their business. John Lockwood, an attorney and consultant for several pari-mutuel owners and slot machine companies, said the state “went overboard” in 2006 when many of the rules were adopted.

“A lot of that stuff just wasn’t really necessary to regulate the industry,” Lockwood said.

 

 

The pari-mutuel rules slated for repeal include:

The pari-mutuel rules slated for amendment include:

The slot machine rules slated for repeal are:

  • 61D-14.042: Accounting and Occurrence Meter Specifications
  • 61D-14.013: Pari-Mutuel Occupational License Transition Period Provisions
  • 61D-14.023: Slot Machine Base Doors
  • 61D-14.026: Cabinet Wiring
  • 61D-14.077: Procedure for Electronic Fund Transfers
  • 61D-14.078: Patron Slot Machine Gaming Accounts
  • 61D-14.083: Compliance with Federal Reporting Requirements
  • 61D-14.091: Jobs Compendium Requirement
  • 61D-14.092: Content of Jobs Compendium
  • 61D-14.094: Department Agreement to the Minimum Critical Staff Level (MCSL) List Requirement for Security and Surveillance

On January 4, 2012, the DPMW repealed various regulations specifically pertaining to Thoroughbred racing.