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: 


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

Gretna Pari-Mutuel Barrel Racing

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.  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:


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.’”


Calder Purse Contract Expires Despite Repeated Attempts by Florida Horsemen to Resolve Dates Crisis “Open Access” Issue

Following a year-long series of events that have directly violated its standing purse contract with the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (FHBPA), Calder Casino and Race Course (Calder) management has rejected a proposal by the FHBPA to resolve the issue of offering “open access” between Calder and Gulfstream when the tracks are scheduled to race head to head in July 2013.  “Open access,” as that term has been discussed and understood by Calder and the FHBPA, would allow horsemen to ship their horses back and forth between Calder and Gulfstream.

The Calder purse contract initially expired on December 31, 2012.  However, since the track conducted no live racing during January, February or March, 2013, a simulcast agreement/purse contract was not critical for those months. 

Serious contract negotiations restarted in March and, in a show of good faith, the FHBPA even extended the expired contract through April, 2013, so as to address several difficult issues, the largest of which was the guarantee of “open access” when summer came. 

In the end, the FHBPA’s efforts were to no avail and the contract finally expired on April 30, 2013.  And, with that, the FHBPA’s consent for simulcasting Calder races was revoked.

Live racing resumes at Calder on Thursday, May 2, 2013 at 12:50 p.m.

As the Florida chapter of the National HBPA, the FHBPA works to protect the safety of its members, their stable personnel and their horses, and works with racetrack management to ensure proper accountability, and responsible and humane conditions for those competitors, among other varied and statutory responsibilities.  Maintaining the independence of horsemens’ organizations serves to assure the wagering public of continued integrity in the horse racing product.



For over 40 years, Calder Race Course—now Calder Casino and Race Course—has never charged a fee (rent) to its trainers for stalls, nor did it ever charge grooms and hotwalkers rent for their bare-bones-style dorm rooms.  Last year, that all changed as Calder management opted to charge room rent to workers and then, in December, charge trainers top dollar to rent stalls.  Notably, the December stall rent charge occurred even though the very same purse contract that expired on December 31, 2012 clearly prohibited stall rent, as had all previous contracts.

Now, Calder and Gulfstream Park are scheduled to run head-to-head this July, this impending dates war figures to take a significant toll on the horsemen and Florida horse racing industry, in general. 

“The horsemen did not create the dates dispute,” explained FHBPA President Phil Combest, “but they are caught in the middle of it.  And with Calder only running three days a week after June 30, there aren’t enough opportunities to race without open access between the two tracks.”

Upon the expiration of the initial extension of the old contract through April, Calder asked the FHBPA for yet another 30-day extension.  In a fair-minded attempt to resolve the problem, the FHBPA Board of Directors held an emergency meeting on April 29, 2013 and invited Calder officials Austin Miller and John Marshall to address the full Board.  This was followed by two hours of discussion by the Board, which resulted in a unanimous resolution that granted Calder the requested 30-day contract extension . . . BUT ONLY on the “express condition that the horsemen are granted perpetual Open Access (as that term has been discussed and understood by Calder and the FHBPA) to the Calder grounds.”

On Wednesday, May 1, Calder management formally rejected the offer.  As a result, the existing purse contract has now officially expired and with it, the FHBPA’s simulcasting consent is revoked.



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,

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