Florida Gaming Study Prompts Scathing Orlando Sentinel Rebuke: Like Contracting Anheuser-Busch To Study Whether Drinking Beer Is OK

Orlando Sentinel Columnist Scott Maxwell doesn’t mince any words in his scathing opinion of Florida’s Gaming Study.   Let’s hope he’s wrong, but his is one of many voices beginning to pile up in strong objection to the use of Florida taxpayer funds to hire a longtime gaming industry ally like Florida Gaming Congress promoter Spectrum Gaming:

More casinos in Florida? Bet on it

April 27, 2013|Scott Maxwell, TAKING NAMES

An old gambling joke says the difference between a prayer in church and a prayer in a casino is that, in a casino, you really mean it.

But when it comes to gambling in Florida, the Legislature isn’t wasting time on prayers.

It’s buying the results it wants — with your money.

The Legislature recently agreed to spend nearly $400,000 to “comprehensively examine gaming issues.”

Supposedly, this will help legislators determine whether Florida needs more big-time gambling and casinos.

Except the company they hired to do the study specializes in promoting big-time gambling and casinos.

Spectrum Gaming Group (note the key word there in the middle) actually sponsors the annual Florida Gaming Congress.

Gee, I wonder what it will find.

This would be like contracting Anheuser-Busch to do a study on whether drinking beer is OK.

To read more, go to:  http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2013-04-27/news/os-scott-maxwell-florida-casino-gambling-study-20130426_1_florida-gaming-congress-gambling-interests-more-gambling

 

 

To read more about legislative and regulatory issues affecting Florida’s $2.2 Billion horse racing industry, go to:  http://floridahorsemen.blogspot.com/

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Florida horsemen caught in corporate behemoth standoff over Intertrack Wagering power struggle–National and Local News Coverage

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:  National and local media coverage of Florida horsemen caught in corporate behemoth standoff over Intertrack Wagering power struggle

(Click a headline below to read the complete story)

Louisville Courier-Journal:  As South Florida “datesmageddon” approaches, horsemen call for truce

The Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association Executive Director Executive Director Kent Stirling said, “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.”

Paulick Report:  Florida Racing Dates—Is It Really About Live Racing?

Somewhere, in the convoluted Chapter 550 of Florida statutes covering pari-mutuel wagering is language stating that pari-mutuel facilities wishing to import Thoroughbred simulcasts have to buy the signal from the track currently offering live racing. The selling track gets two-thirds of the net revenue, with the simulcast facility getting one-third.

Ocala Star-Banner:  Florida’s thoroughbred groups fear industry could be gutted by track dispute

Florida thoroughbred horsemen worry the continuing fight between Calder Race Course and Gulfstream Park over racing dates will ultimately ravage breeders, owners and thousands of others who make a living in the racing industry.

Daily Racing Form:  Florida horsemen’s groups ask for cooperation between Gulfstream, Calder

The Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association Executive Director Kent Stirling warned that the overlapping dates not only might risk over-extending the state’s human and equine populations, but also fragment the wagering dollar and divert resources needed to tackle other challenges facing the state’s Thoroughbred industry, such as pari-mutuel barrel racing.

Paulick Report:  Florida Horsemen’s Groups Urge Tracks to Settle Differences

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.

Florida Voices:  Gulfstream, Calder Overdue in Settling Dates Conflict

Done right, horse racing and breeding affords Florida with enormous economic impact because of all the jobs and businesses it creates.  But, overlapping dates can drain the local horse population and fragment wagering dollars — making it difficult for the entire industry to prosper.

Wire to Wire:   Florida’s Horsemen urge South Florida tracks to settle differences

Lonny Powell, a former horse racing regulator and track operator, who now serves as CEO of the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association said,  “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.”

Blood Horse:  Rumor That Stronach is Buying Calder Denied

A Florida law requires a race track or jai-alai fronton to have a minimum number of pari-mutuel performance days to obtain and retain a casino license.  To do that, Calder must have at least 80 race days each year.

Calder Casino Owner Churchill Downs Posts Record Earnings

Churchill Downs Incorporated, home of the Kentucky Derby and parent company of Calder Casino and Race Course, has released its financial results for the first quarter of 2013 showing that it achieved record revenues for the period of $148.07 million.

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.”

Spectrum Gaming Group Selected For Comprehensive Legislative Gaming Study, Florida Horsemen Note

Florida’s Legislature announced today, April 16, 2013, that it has signed a contract with Spectrum Gaming Group to complete a comprehensive study on Florida’s gaming-related issues.

“Spectrum Gaming has extensive experience in a variety of major horse racing and breeding states, including Kentucky, Louisiana, Illinois and Ohio,” remarked Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association Executive Director Kent Stirling.

“Florida’s professional racing horsemen are pleased that the message of our $2.2 billion annual statewide economic impact has apparently been heard,” Stirling added.  “Legitimate horse racing and breeding in Florida generates 104,000 documented jobs per year, and it is imperative that any public policy going forward reflects the enormous financial contributions of thousands of small businesses that are both directly and indirectly supported by Florida’s horse racing industry.”

The Legislature’s gaming study, which will be addressed in separate reports delivered in July and October 2013, will provide a comprehensive analysis of gaming market information, to include an assessment of the Florida gaming industry and its economic and social effects, an assessment of various potential changes in the gaming industry and their potential economic and social effects (including effects on other areas of the economy), and a statistical analysis of relationships between gaming and economic variables for communities.

The Legislature’s news release is reprinted below.

Florida Legislature Signs Contract for Gaming Study

Spectrum Gaming Group Selected to Complete Comprehensive Study on Gaming Issues

Tallahassee–The Florida House and Senate today announced the joint selection of Spectrum Gaming Group to complete a two-part study of gaming in Florida to assist the Legislature in better understanding the economic, fiscal, and social impacts of possible changes in Florida’s gaming environment.

“Spectrum has extensive experience in providing independent studies of gaming in a variety of jurisdictions, including Massachusetts, Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Ohio,” said Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel). “I look forward to reviewing their report as we take a holistic view of the role gaming plays in Florida’s economy.”

The gaming study will provide a comprehensive analysis of gaming market information, to include: an assessment of the Florida gaming industry and its economic and social effects; an assessment of various potential changes in the gaming industry and their potential economic and social effects (including effects on other areas of the economy); and a statistical analysis of relationships between gaming and economic variables for communities.

“The Florida Lottery, Seminole casinos, and gaming activities at licensed pari-mutuel facilities generate substantial economic activity; however, the State’s management of these activities has been focused on piecemeal changes, not a comprehensive policy that integrates gaming into the broader Florida economy,” said Senate President Don Gaetz (R-Niceville). “This study will help House and Senate committees comprehensively examine gaming issues, including those that will affect the scheduled renegotiation of the Seminole Gaming Compact.”

“Spectrum is honored by this selection, as we realize the importance of this study to Florida’s policymakers in so many ways, from the future of its tourism industry to the quality of life for its citizens,” said Michael Pollock, Spectrum Gaming Group’s Managing Director.

The gaming study is divided into sub-parts, which will be addressed in separate reports delivered in July and October. The total cost of the two-part gaming study is $388,845. A complete description of the scope of work is contained at pages 11-13 of the Invitation to Negotiate, which can be found via the Gaming Study Home Page.

Spectrum’s project team includes: Dr. Howard Shaffer, Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Director of the Division on Addiction at The Cambridge Health Alliance, a Harvard Medical School teaching affiliate; Regional Economic Models, Inc. (REMI); Doug Walker, Associate Professor of Economics at the College of Charleston; and, Lori Pennington-Gray, Associate Director of the Eric Friedheim Tourism Institute at the University of Florida.

Procurement Process

The Legislature conducted a competitive procurement process to select a vendor. An Invitation to Negotiate was issued in February. Seven vendors submitted replies by the deadline. An evaluation team composed of House and Senate staff reviewed the proposals in detail and selected three vendors for continued negotiations (Spectrum Gaming Group, The Innovation Group, and MGT of America). After negotiations, House and Senate staff provided recommendations to the Speaker Weatherford and President Gaetz, respectively, regarding the selection of a vendor to provide the highest overall value to the Florida Legislature.

For more information on the gaming study and procurement process, please visit the Gaming Study Home Page located at http://www.leg.state.fl.us/GamingStudy

 

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. 

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