April 7, 2014–Even as Florida lawmakers declared gambling expansion to be a “dead issue” last week, it ironically expanded TODAY in South Marion County, thanks to Florida regulators issuing a license for more unaccredited horse-related “timed events” enabling the pari-mutuel permitholder of “South Marion Real Estate Holdings” to open a 365-day a year card room at a facility it calls “Oxford Downs” near The Villages—a popular Central Florida retirement community.
“We cannot fathom why Florida seems intent on dismantling its billion-dollar horse racing industry in this manner,” said Kent Stirling, Executive Director of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (FHBPA). “As lawmakers deliberate the importance of funds for the State Budget this week, the loss of horse racing’s substantial economic and job creation engine is something taxpayers can ill afford.”
Because Florida law provides no definition of “horse racing,” regulators have continued to issue licenses to some pari-mutuel permitholders for various contrived activities that skirt the State’s requirement for live horse racing in order to hold cardrooms or slot machines. The activities dramatically curtail the amount of horses (and thus businesses and employees) that would normally be needed to conduct a legitimate race meeting and corresponding breeding industry.
In a last-ditch effort to educate the Marion County Commission that gambling would be expanding in the heart of Florida’s internationally-acclaimed racehorse breeding industry to the detriment of their own constituents, longstanding Florida Thoroughbred and Quarter Horsemen described “Oxford Downs” as a “mockery” and a “Trojan Horse.” To read their letters to the editor in today’s Ocala Star-Banner, click here.
National and regional organizations opposing the “South Marion/Oxford Downs” project have included the American Quarter Horse Association, the Jockey’s Guild, FHBPA, Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association, Florida Quarter Horse Breeders’ and Owners’ Association, Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association and Ocala Breeders’ Sales. Membership in these organizations totals nearly 400,000 horsemen–accredited racehorse owners, trainers, jockeys and breeders worldwide.
After reportedly being physically intimidated with vehicles, and verbally menaced with arrest and other threats, officials from a major Florida horse racing industry group attempting to attend today’s public “South Marion/Oxford Downs” events were ordered to leave.
Below are hyperlinks to the South Marion Real Estate Holdings pari-mutuel license information.
|Permitholder Application for Annual License and Operating Day||SOUTH MARION REAL ESTATE HOLDINGS, LLC||Primary||545
PM Operate Lic
|Permit to Conduct Pari-Mutuel Wagering||SOUTH MARION REAL ESTATE HOLDINGS, LLC||Primary||545