Florida Horsemen Thwart Horse Racing Decoupling Amendment; FHBPA President Bill White Calls Out Big Casino Maneuvering

Florida Horsemen Thwart Horse Racing Decoupling Amendment; FHBPA President Bill White Calls Out Big Casino Maneuvering

“The State of Florida’s interest in gambling is to generate tax revenue, not to create the most profitable environment for gaming operations.”–FTBOA General Counsel Warren Husband

It was enough to give even the most experienced horseman a bad case of heartburn.

Reckoning day was April 21, 2015 in Tallahassee as the Florida House of Representatives’ powerful Finance and Tax Committee called roll to prepare for a debate on “decoupling,” with a specific amendment on decoupling horse racing taking dead aim on HB 1233, a massive overhaul of the state policy that could substantially expand Florida’s gambling landscape if enacted.

Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (FHBPA) President and Calder Hall of Fame veteran Thoroughbred trainer Bill White straightened his tie, squared his shoulders and walked in.

A pantheon of casino industry lobbyists packed the committee room as White took his place at the front, shoulder to shoulder with his somber colleagues from the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association (FQHRA), Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners Association (FTBOA) and Standardbred interests.  Together, they faced a gallery of legislators preparing to decide on the amendment to “decouple” horse racing from other forms of gambling in Florida.  The fate of horsemen–the trainers, owners and breeders who drive the lucrative horse racing business in the Sunshine State–hung in the balance.

“The State of Florida’s interest in gambling is to generate tax revenue, not to create the most profitable environment for gaming operations,” FTBOA General Counsel Warren Husband explained to legislators.   With 25,000 horses annually engaged in the business of Florida racing or breeding, the biggest economic impact is gained through ensuring adequate racing days, he added.

But in an age of “less government,” the concept of “decoupling” has become the rallying cry of casino operators seeking to rid themselves of horse racing altogether.  As White  listened to their impassioned arguments calling for “fairness” and “leveling the playing field” by leaving it up to pari-mutuel permitholders as to whether to conduct live racing or not, he wondered if legislators were aware of the many livelihoods and small businesses at stake.

He thought of the many faces of FHBPA members who were even now working on the backstretch as he jotted notes to himself far away in Tallahassee, readying himself for the trial by fire at hand.  Just one month into his new role as FHBPA President, the frustration of hearing horse racing trivialized over and over again as unremarkable collateral damage by those who may have never even seen a racetrack welled up in him as he strode to the podium when he was finally called to speak.

Right off the bat, White set the record straight on who the 6,000 FHBPA members are.  “We are the real deal as far as the horse owners who put up the money and the trainers’ small businesses who do the work,” he established.

The actual leveling of the playing field, was done by voters, who approved slots in 2004 to ensure that Florida horse racing could continue to compete with northern tracks already flush with casino money that was luring the best horsemen away from the state, he explained.  Stand-alone casinos were never the intent.

“Slots are here in Florida because of horse racing,” FQHRA Executive Director Steve Fisch said during his testimony.  “(Slots were) not a plan to race a few years, drop racing and then just have slots . . . a fair deal is a two-way street.”

Delivering a powerful punch to casino-only interests in his closing, White called out their presumptuousness in assuming the Florida Legislature would simply cave to special interests and ignore horsemen’s needs.

“Right now, whether you know it or not–even before decoupling might happen, Churchill Downs is tearing down the barns at Calder in anticipation that it will happen.  Horses have been displaced and even put in tents.  It’s been a real hardship.”  White fired his parting salvo:  ” . . . as a horseman who has invested my life in this game, I find this action insulting that an entity would take it upon themselves to do this before the Legislature has even acted.”

The horsemen’s strong unified presence paid off with the defeat of the horse racing decoupling amendment.  And although the greyhound-related decoupling provisions of HB 1233 passed that day, the clock ran out as the 2015 Legislative Session came to a contentious close just over a week later.

“We still have plenty of work to do,” he reminded FHBPA Board members as he gave his report upon coming back home to South Florida.  “I am urging horsemen to take all necessary steps to make your presence known to your Senators and State Representatives.  Your involvement is crucial.”

With the call of a Special Session anticipated this week for legislators to pass a state budget after they were unable to do so during the regularly scheduled Session, the general consensus is that gaming issues will likely not be on the agenda.  However, horsemen are urged to stay vigilant in the event that HB 1233 surfaces during the anticipated June 1 through June 20 Special Session time period.

To view the entire hearing, click HERE.  White’s testimony begins at minute mark 30:20.

Florida Horsemen’s New President Bill White: A Lifetime of Teaching, Coaching, Training Success Prepared Him To Lead FHBPA During Uncertain Times

Florida Horse Racing Thoroughbred Trainer Bill White is President of the Florida Horsemen FHBPA

Florida HBPA President Bill White (left) and Thoroughbred owner Jack Roberts

There must be something to that teacher/high school sports coach connection when it comes to training racehorses.  It’s served superstar horseman D. Wayne Lukas quite well and it’s also been the platform from which South Florida Thoroughbred conditioner Bill White has reached the mythical 2,000 win milestone, garnering 18 training titles along the way, from Tropical Park, to Hialeah Park–with eight consecutive years leading the trainer standings at Calder Race Course.

During his career, White has found that, like teaching, great coaching requires a love of seeing others succeed:  Helping kids, and even horses find their own definition of success. Having patience with his charges, while holding them accountable for playing their position on the team.

Now White, 62, has added a different kind of player to his coaching repertoire:  Horsemen.

On March 26, 2015, he was elected President of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, a statewide organization of some 6,000 Thoroughbred racehorse owners and trainers who do business in Florida–some full-time, others part-time.  He will serve a one-year term, during which he plans to focus on Florida’s tenacious regulatory and legislative landscape, a veritable quagmire for horsemen recently as pari-mutuel permitholders, under pressure from Big Gaming entities, seek to “decouple”–that is, untether the legal requirement to conduct live racing in order to continue slot machine and card room operations.

While some would run from shouldering such a tough job, especially given the notoriously headstrong nature of horsemen, and even legislators, who are usually independent, self-made and highly opinionated, White is up to the task and on the muscle to effect lasting change.

Florida Horse Racing

FHBPA President Bill White with Mari George, Indianapolis Speedway Owner

During his first month in office as FHBPA President, he has curtailed his training business to give his all to Florida’s horsemen.  Several times a week, White walks the barns at Gulfstream and Calder, visiting with horsemen to get their thoughts and suggestions on issues, challenges and goals.  He is aggressively pursuing an upgrade and modernization of FHBPA communications, operations and accounting, while already having flown back and forth several times to Tallahassee to testify before various legislative committees, ensuring horsemen’s positions were held firm amid the tumultuous and historic 2015 Session that ended May 1.  It has been a grueling schedule, but he expected nothing less when he volunteered for the job.

Originally from Chicago, Illinois, White moved to Largo, Florida in 1968. After earning his Masters Degree in Special Education from University of South Florida, he taught in Sarasota public schools for six years, while coaching high school baseball at Booker High School.

“The team was winless when I took over.  Three years later, we were district champions,” White recalls.

His grandfather, Lawrence Adolfie, a Thoroughbred owner in Southern Illinois, was the source of his love for horse racing as a young boy.  While still teaching and supplementing his meager income by shoeing horses on the weekends, White was given an opportunity by owner Burton Butker to train at Tampa Bay Downs in 1983.  After a few starts, he had his first winner–a filly named Satu.

“I actually called in sick to school to get the day off so I could ship my filly in from a farm in Sarasota,” he remembers.  “I was so proud of myself that I showed the principal the win picture, completely forgetting I had called in sick!”

White soon resigned from teaching, spending his first three years after that at Tampa Bay Downs in the winter, and then training at Finger Lakes, River Downs and Atlantic City in the summer.  In 1986, he began training full-time in South Florida.

With years logged in service on the FHBPA Board throughout the past decades, White has learned a great deal about the organization.

“I feel that because of my long experience in racing in South Florida I can have a positive influence,” he said.  “It is my goal to create a spirit of unity between the FHBPA, the breeders and Gulfstream Park as we all face an uncertain future.”

White and his wife, Laura, have been married since 1976.   They have two grown children, Lindsey and Jake.

Read News Coverage of Bill White’s Recent Election on @BloodHorse:  http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/91099/white-elected-president-of-florida-hbpa

Economic Boom Time At Hialeah Park as FQHRA-Accredited Quarter Horse Racing Thrives! 2013-2014 Season Begins November 29!

Something To Be Thankful For:  REAL Florida Quarter Horse Racing!

Hialeah Park’s fifth consecutive FQHRA meet has been described as its most successful and ambitious undertaking to date, and the upcoming 40-day program “ . . . will prove that Hialeah Park is a serious player and is working hard to establish a position of prominence in North American Quarter Horse racing,” Hialeah Park Owner and Chairman of the Board John J. Brunetti Sr. explained.

For weeks now, America’s biggest, most prestigious and successful Quarter Horse racing stables have been loading in to Miami-Dade’s famed Hialeah Park for its Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association (FQHRA)-sanctioned 2013-2014 winter racing meet that begins this Friday, November 29.

Accredited Quarter Horsemen From Across America Clamoring To Compete at Hialeah Park’s Fifth Consecutive Successful Quarter Horse Racing Season

For weeks now, America’s biggest, most prestigious and successful Quarter Horse racing stables have been loading in to Miami-Dade’s famed Hialeah Park for its Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association (FQHRA)-sanctioned 2013-2014 winter racing meet that begins this Friday, November 29.

Through the FQHRA’s stewardship, the vibrance and pageantry of Florida horse racing will be broadcast internationally throughout the United States and across three separate continents on a daily basis.

“We’ve got all our 830 stalls full, I’ve got some horsemen on hold, I’ve got others stabled at nearby training facilities, and even more who want to come,” Hialeah Park Racing Secretary Matt Crawford effused.

A former Texas horse racing official, Crawford has been busy recruiting accredited Quarter Horse racing stables and top trainers for the meet since he was hired by Hialeah Park earlier this year. “Our bigger stables are all coming back:  Donnie Strickland, Charlton Hunt, Judd Kearl, Brandon Muniz, Gary Walker, Alfredo Gomez, Ron David and Matt Frazier,” he said. “And most of them are bringing more horses.”

Indeed . . . horses, horses and more horses was the reason most cited by local area businesses as their biggest economic boost during Hialeah’s last season, as FQHRA-accredited horsemen rushed to hire enough employees to care for their high-dollar, high-powered racehorses, and scrambled for food, lodging, meals, equipment, gas and other supplies to carry them through the next several months of doing business in South Florida.

Hialeah Park’s fifth consecutive FQHRA meet has been described as its most successful and ambitious undertaking to date, and the upcoming 40-day program “ . . . will prove that Hialeah Park is a serious player and is working hard to establish a position of prominence in North American Quarter Horse racing,” Hialeah Park Owner and Chairman of the Board John J. Brunetti Sr. explained.

During the live racing season, Hialeah Park will also be open for simulcast wagering seven days a week, day and night. Available simulcast tracks include Betfair Hollywood Park, Santa Anita, Gulfstream Park, and many others.  To view the dozens of nationwide and international outlets that will be broadcasting Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association competition on a daily basis, click here.

The FQHRA is the Florida Chapter of the American Quarter Horse Association, an international organization of nearly 350,000 members that regulates and sanctions accredited Quarter Horse racing (or “Q-Racing”) to ensure that animal welfare and integrity remain paramount to produce a quality racing product.

AQHA-accredited Quarter Horse racing annually produces thousands of sanctioned races that amounted in 2012 to $131.5 million in purse money.  Accredited Quarter Horse racing generated more than $300 million in wagering at U.S. racetracks in 2012.

For More Information About the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association, go to:

www.FQHRA.com

Economic Boom Time In South Florida as FQHRA-Accredited  Quarter Horse Racing Thrives at Hialeah Park

Florida’s Thoroughbred, Quarter Horsemen Draw Praise for Unity At Today’s Pari-Mutuel Regulatory Hearing

October 16, 2013–The coalition of horse racing owners, trainers and breeders on hand for today’s Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering rule hearing in Broward County drew praise and recognition from others in attendance who noted the unification among Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse and even some racetrack facility interests in advocating for a cleanup of Florida’s horse racing rules.

Packed into a cramped, hot room for a hearing that was originally scheduled to last the entire day, a “who’s who” of Florida horsemen and statewide representatives from various pari-mutuel factions commented on the proposed rules in an orderly, upbeat manner that belied ongoing tensions among them stemming from the past several years of regulatory havoc.  While many lauded the new rules as a long overdue basis for change, others warned of protracted lawsuits that could erupt from their various nuances.

The hearing concluded in approximately an hour and a half, with most speakers indicating they would provide written copies of their respective suggestions and comments to Division officials later on.

Precipitating today’s hearing, wildly variant interpretations of Florida horse racing law 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).

“We definitely think today’s workshop represents a positive forward step by the Division toward ensuring the integrity and stability of Florida horse racing for all breeds–a multi-billion dollar industry with a bright and profitable future as noted by legislative consultants this month during the Florida House and Senate gaming hearings.” said Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (FHBPA) Executive Director Kent Stirling, whose organization represents some 6,000 Thoroughbred owners and trainers statewide.  “We look forward to working with the Division to lend our national industry knowledge and expertise.”

Today’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering regulatory hearing—the first in a series of planned events by the agency—took place in advance of a legislative workshop series being held by the Florida Senate Gaming Committee to receive public input on the recent Spectrum Gaming Study.  The series begins on October 23 in Coconut Creek.

Hyperlinks to the proposed Rules reviewed today are listed below:

61D-2.024 Track General Rules
61D-2.025 Race General Rules
61D-2.026 Jai Alai Game General Rules
61D-2.027 Performances
61D-2.028 Jockey Requirements
61D-2.029 Qualifications of Horses to Start

 

 

 

 

 

Florida Pari-Mutuel Regulation Overhaul, Legislative Gaming Study To Be Held Concurrently; Horse Racing Industry Wonders About End-Game, Dara Kam Reports

Post by Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association.

Horsemen and just about everyone else are wondering what’s the deal with the proposed new #Florida horse racing rule overhaul announced last week–and its surprise scheduling smack in the face of the coming (but completely separate) legislative hearings for the same purpose??  Dara Kam reports for The News Service of Florida that the proposed Rules are making just about everyone–even the bad actors, #casino lawyers and dungaree-donned “flag-drop” phony “jockeys”–scratch their heads. #FHBPA‘s Kent Stirling tells Dara in the article that, if regulators are trying to help, they have a funny way of communicating it. “There’s this thing called the phone,” he said. Under the new proposals, for example, races wouldn’t count if a certain number of horses scratch, and horses would have to post at least 10 published workouts before being allowed to start. Click below to read the complete story via Sunshine State News

http://www.sunshinestatenews.com/story/new-rules-odds-some-gambling-industry

#horseracing#parimutuel#Thoroughbred,#QuarterHorse,

#SpectrumGaming#FloridaLegislature,#FloridaSenate,

#Standardbred,#FloridaGambling#FTBOA#FQHRA,

#AQHA#TOBA,#Calder#HialeahPark#GulfstreamPark,

#TampaBayDowns#Ocala#Tampa#SouthFlorida,#MiamiDade,

#Broward#PalmBeach#PaysonPark,#NorthFlorida #Orlando

Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering October 16 Rule Workshop Takes Florida Horsemen By Surprise, Miami Herald’s Mary Ellen Klas Reports

Miami Herald

 

 

The Miami Herald’s Mary Ellen Klas reported today that a surprise announcement on an October 16, 2013 hearing by the #Florida Division of #PariMutuel #Wagering blindsided the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, which has successfully joined forces with the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association to battle the agency in court over its decision to designate “barrel match racing” as a parimutuel sport, among other issues.

“The FHPBA was surprised to see the Division’s announcement today,” said #FHBPA Executive Director Kent Stirling. “We’re still in the process of reviewing the proposed Rule text, which appears to have already been drafted.”

To read the entire story, click on the link below (includes today’s complete news release from the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering):

http://miamiherald.typepad.com/nakedpolitics/2013/09/after-months-of-holding-together-a-patchwork-quilt-of-regulations-over-the-states-gaming-industry-the-florida-division-of-pa.html

The FHBPA learned today, September 6, 2013, that the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering scheduled a comprehensive day-long rulemaking workshop for October 16, 2013 on a slate of technical regulations relating to pari-mutuels, including horse racing.

The October 16 workshop is scheduled to take place in Ft. Lauderdale as the first in a series of statewide regulatory hearings, the Division announced.

To view the proposed Rules and meeting information, click here.

Meanwhile, the Florida Legislature is in process of reviewing Florida’s gaming and pari-mutuel laws and has commissioned a private company, Spectrum Gaming, to conduct a study.  The Spectrum study–the final segment of which is due October 1, 2013–is expected to provide Florida lawmakers with a basis for crafting legislative policy going forward.  Before today’s surprise Division announcement, statewide legislative hearings were planned.

“Given that on January 4, 2012, a slate of rules relating to Thoroughbred racing technicalities were repealed, we need to make a thorough analysis of what’s going on,” Stirling said.

#horseracing, #FloridaPolitics, #FloridaLegislature, #SpectrumGaming, #Floridagambling, #TampaBayDowns, #GulfstreamPark, #HialeahPark, #Calder, #Thoroughbred, #QuarterHorse, #Ocala, #Tampa, #Jacksonville, #Tallahassee, #Orlando, #Naples, #MiamiDade, #Broward, #PalmBeach, #Volusia, #FloridaHorse, #FTBOA