Given the imminent final phase of the Florida Legislature’s highly anticipated gaming study, how proposed new pari-mutuel rules might factor into future policymaking is unknown, but Florida’s horsemen agree that recent developments on both the regulatory and legislative fronts have horse racing industry leaders feeling somewhat hopeful.
Statewide, racehorse owners, trainers and breeders will be watching closely this Monday, September 23, 2013, as the Florida Senate Gaming Committee holds its first interim meeting from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. in Tallahassee.
At Monday’s meeting, Senators will meet to discuss the format and schedule for a series of four (4) public workshops scheduled around the state to review a study conducted by Spectrum Gaming Inc. on Florida’s gaming industry and its economic effects. They will also review Part 1 of the Spectrum study, parts of which with horsemen have concerns.
“There’s no denying that the laws and rules surrounding horse racing are complex,” said Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association Executive Director Kent Stirling, whose organization represents nearly 6,000 independent Thoroughbred horse owners and trainers. “But we definitely feel that some of the statements in Part 1 of the Spectrum Study could use clarification—for instance, citing declines in paid attendance when, in fact, there has been no paid attendance at Florida horse tracks in years.”
The Gaming Committee’s first public workshop on the Spectrum Study takes place on October 23 in Coconut Creek at Broward College North Campus from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Regulatory Hearings on New Horse Racing Rules Begin Just Days Earlier
But just days earlier on October 16—also in Broward County (Ft. Lauderdale)—the first of a series of regulatory hearings held by the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering will also take place. Public comment will be allowed on a slate of proposed new horse racing Rules—many of which seem to address heretofore wildly variant interpretations of Florida horse racing law that have freely proliferated during the past several years—particularly to the detriment of legitimate, accredited Quarter Horse racing as sanctioned by the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association (FQHRA).
“While we’re not yet sure how the Division’s rulemaking might dovetail with any findings and legislation filed by the Senate Gaming Committee, Florida’s horsemen definitely think our regulators are moving in the right direction—back toward normalcy, with respect to Florida’s hard-earned acclaim in the global horse racing community,” said FQHRA President Dr. Steve Fisch, whose organization represents the Florida arm of the powerful American Quarter Horse Association.
“Horsemen are ready to work with the Division to ensure aberrations like six-foot tall, 200-pound wranglers dressed in dungarees and t-shirts are no longer allowed to pass for ‘jockeys’ in Florida—as has been the case,” Stirling added. “It’s been a protracted insult to legitimate jockeys—some of the finest, most courageous and accomplished professional athletes in all of sports—and many of whom choose Florida as their annual headquarters.”
“Horsemen are ready to support our regulators in what we hope will be a new day toward legitimacy, profitability for our members and a proper return on horse racing’s positive economic impact,” Fisch said.
For more information about issues affecting Florida horsemen, go to: www.FloridaHorsemen.com