Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s Action on Gretna Racing Slot Machine Ruling Cheered by Florida’s Thoroughbred Racehorse Owners and Trainers

In response to the news that Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has requested a full-court rehearing of a recent ruling allowing slot machines at Gretna Racing LLC, Florida’s Thoroughbred racehorse owners and trainers agreed that, without such intervention, the result of allowing the earlier decision to stand would indeed be a “jaw-dropping gambling expansion.”

Representing more than 6,000 horsemen statewide, the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (FHBPA) President Bill White reminded that, during the span of December 2011 to January 2012, Gretna Racing LLC leveraged “pari-mutuel barrel racing” to convince the Gadsden County Commission to hold a slot referendum on January 31, 2012.   Other pari-mutuel permit holders followed suit, basing their actions on various convolutions of horse-related events designed as work-arounds to Florida law, which requires two years worth of live horse racing as a prerequisite to licensing for card rooms or slot machines.

In 2013, it was adjudicated that “pari-mutuel barrel racing” was not even real barrel racing, but wrongly approved as a new gambling product by the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering with no legislative authorization, regulatory hearings or public input.

The most recent developments in the Gretna Racing matter have led horsemen to question whether a slot license legally can, or should be granted to the North Florida pari-mutuel permitholder, or any similar permitholder that has used horse-related events in a manner that has precluded the creation of jobs, businesses and positive economic benefit that would normally come with accredited horse racing and breeding operations.

The FHBPA and its colleagues, the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association, and the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association, have strongly objected to the use of questionable horse-related events like “flag dropping” and “pari-mutuel barrel racing” in lieu of horse racing–heretofore unheard-of events that have been allowed to serve as the pari-mutuel basis for licensing of 365-day cardrooms, simulcasting or efforts to secure slot machines.

“If accredited horse racing would have been required in these locations, their local communities could have created far more jobs, businesses and economic impact,” White explained.  “For this reason, we urge General Bondi to strive to preserve one of Florida’s foremost economic generators–its world-renowned Thoroughbred horse racing industry, as well as its rapidly growing American Quarter Horse racing industry.”

“This is a good opportunity to remind our policymakers  that the purpose of state-sanctioned gambling is to increase tax revenues and economic impact, not to create the optimal atmosphere for out-of-state casinos or otherwise untaxed profits,” White noted.

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For Now, “Pari-Mutuel Barrel Racing” Qualifies Gretna Racing LLC For Slots

THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA’s Dara Kam reported on May 29, 2015:   “In what could be a game changer in Florida’s gambling arena, an appeals court today ordered state regulators to allow slot machines at a Gadsden County racetrack . . . “

The Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association is disappointed that the First District Court of Appeal ruled on May 29, 2015 in favor of allowing slot machines at Gretna Racing LLC.  We are hopeful that the Florida Attorney General will continue in her efforts.

During the span of December 2011 to January 2012, Gretna Racing LLC leveraged “pari-mutuel barrel racing” to convince the Gadsden County Commission to hold a slot referendum on January 31, 2012.

Given that three court rulings have held that “pari-mutuel barrel racing” was not even real barrel racing, but wrongly approved as a new gambling product by the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering with no legislative authorization, regulatory hearings or public input, the FHBPA strongly questions whether a slot license legally can, or or should be granted to Gretna Racing LLC, or any similar permit that has used horse-related events in a manner afoul of the “pari-mutuel barrel racing” court rulings.

Further, for every pari-mutuel permit that has since been used in this manner to gain a 365-day per year card room, slot referendum or otherwise, there have been thousands of Florida horsemen’s jobs lost that would otherwise have been created if accredited and legitimate horse racing would have been required in these locations.

We urge General Bondi to strive to preserve one of Florida’s foremost economic generators–its world-renowned Thoroughbred horse racing industry, as well as its rapidly growing Quarter Horse racing industry.

This is a good opportunity to remind that the purpose of state-sanctioned gambling is to increase tax revenues and economic impact, not to create the optimal atmosphere for out-of-state casinos or otherwise untaxed profits on the backs of horsemen’s small businesses.

To read news coverage by Dara Kam of THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA, click HERE.

Gambling regulators at the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation rejected Gretna Racing’s request for slot machines late in 2013, relying in part on an opinion issued by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, whose office represented the agency in the First DCA lawsuit.

Gretna Racing has since conducted “flag drop” events, which are not approved, accredited or sanctioned in any way by theFlorida Quarter Horse Racing Association, which is the Florida Chapter of the American Quarter Horse Association.

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.

“Gretna 5.0” Gambling Creep Could Come To Debary, Florida

Debary City Council to Take Up Proposed “Land Use Change” on May 6 Agenda

May 6, 2015–Carrying with it the suspected possibility of continuing the recent gambling creep in Florida via unsanctioned horse-related events, a “land use change” that professional Florida horsemen fear could actually be “Gretna 5.0” is on the Debary City Council agenda today.

Representing Thoroughbred and accredited Quarter Horse racehorse owners, trainers and breeders statewide, Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association President Bill White and Vice President Tom Cannell will be on hand to appear before the Debary City Council in Volusia County with the hope of conveying the devastating toll taken on Florida’s lucrative horse racing industry by spurious horse events posing as fronts for cardrooms and even slot machines.

“A real horse racing meet requires thousands of horses and nearly three times the employees to care for them,” White explained.  “We are highly concerned that the connections of Debary Real Estate Holdings are not planning to hold real horse racing.   Unfortunately, without ensuring legitimate racing operations from the outset of the proposed project, the Debary and Volusia County economy will not ever be able to realize the far-reaching commensurate benefits that real horse racing and breeding can bring.”

The Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association, the only organization that can sanction legitimate Quarter Horse racing in Florida, confirmed that it has not been contacted by Debary Real Estate Holdings, which has direct connections to Gretna Racing, Inc., the same pari-mutuel permitholder that attempted to legalize “pari-mutuel barrel racing.”

“The proposal behind today’s ‘land use change’ request will not bring more jobs, more green space, more economic impact or more revenue without accredited horse racing,” White explained.  “For each spurious pari-mutuel permit that is allowed to operate, Florida forfeits a large piece of its horse racing industry at a critical time when the need to create jobs is at its most urgent.”

To access the May 6 Debary City Council agenda, click here.

Recent news coverage by Mark Harper of the Daytona Beach News-Journal on the Debary Real Estate Holdings issue:

Media Inquiries Please Contact Kent Stirling at (305) 625-4591 or Bill White at (954) 303-5448

 

Paulick Report Videos Reveal Florida’s Dirty Parimutuel Secret–Phony Horse “Racing”

Paulick Report Videos of South Marion Real Estate Holdings Oxford Downs

 

Paulick Report publisher Ray Paulick and his crew visited the latest Florida phony horse racing venue, South Marion Real Estate Holdings’ “Oxford Downs” yesterday, July 1, 2014.

The slate of videos they returned with was nothing short of shocking . . . take your pick below!   We especially enjoyed how the Oxford Downs “staff” (complete with child holding 5-iron) had to call for reinforcements upon Ray’s arrival at the “front gate!”

Despite Florida Horsemen’s Written Complaint and Court Rulings, Regulators Approve More Phony Marion County Horse “Races” Today

Despite related court rulings and a written complaint filed with the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering by the United Florida Horsemen about the blatant misuse of a pari-mutuel permit issued to “South Marion Real Estate Holdings,” horse-based competitions are nevertheless scheduled to take place at the permitholder’s facility (known as “Oxford Downs”) today, July 1, 2014.

Billed as legitimate horse races, the two-horse competitions are essentially a mockery of actual horse racing, and have raised deep concern about animal welfare and regulatory standards among Florida’s horse racing owners, trainers and breeders.

“We, and our many members, are appalled by the continuing disrespect and disregard for well-established industry standards and practices by a few businessmen looking for a shortcut to poker room profits,” the United Florida Horsemen wrote to Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering Director Leon Biegalski in its May 27, 2014 complaint, to which no response has been received to date.

To read the entire United Florida Horsemen complaint, click here.

Critically, the “Oxford Downs” horse competitions are designed to sharply curtail horsemen’s participation, so as to presumably limit the positive economic activity that would normally be generated by thousands of horses and their caretakers present at a normal race meeting—creating jobs and strengthening Florida’s economy, but removing gambling profits from “Oxford Downs’” bottom line.

“These charades would almost be comical if they didn’t have such a corrosive effect on the integrity and viability of our industries and if they didn’t result in lost jobs and livelihoods—not to mention the negative impact they have on the basic character of the pari-mutuel industry in Florida . . . “the United Florida Horsemen wrote, referring to the horse racing industry’s annual billion-dollar economic impact.

The United Florida Horsemen include the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association, and the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association.  The organizations comprise nearly 10,000 Florida racehorse owners, trainers and breeders who do business in Florida.

 

Florida Turning Away Quarter Horse Business Happily Received By Australian “Sunshine State”

“American Quarter Horse racing is big business and it takes a country like Australia to recognize its many economic benefits,” said FQHRA Board member Ben Hudson, who is among the group of national AQHA executives called upon by Australia to handle the project. “It’s a conundrum as to why Florida is casting aside the very same opportunity eagerly sought out by a government as large, historic and experienced as Queensland.”

FQHRA/AQHA executives were invited by Queensland’s Premier Campbell Newman to join him in making the announcement about their role in Australia’s new Quarter Horse racing program before a cheering crowd of 75,000 last month in Texas, just before he finalized a Queensland/Texas sister state agreement with Texas Governor Rick Perry.

 
Roughly twice the size of Texas and known as the “Sunshine State” Down-Under, Australia’s Queensland announced in March 2014 that it has commissioned executives from the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association (FQHRA) and its parent, the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) to oversee the development and regulation of American Quarter Horse racing for the entirety of Queensland—the world’s sixth-largest sub-national entity.
 
“American Quarter Horse racing is big business and it takes a country like Australia to recognize its many economic benefits,” said FQHRA Board member Ben Hudson, who is among the group of national AQHA executives called upon by Australia to handle the project. “It’s a conundrum as to why Florida is casting aside the very same opportunity eagerly sought out by a government as large, historic and experienced as Queensland.”
 
The Australian Quarter Horse Association is part of the American Quarter Horse Association. 
 
The FQHRA/AQHA executives were invited by Queensland’s Premier Campbell Newman to join him in making the announcement before a cheering crowd of 75,000 last month in Texas, just before he finalized a Queensland/Texas sister state agreement with Texas Governor Rick Perry.  During the presentation, Premier Newman reminded the crowd that Texas is the “spiritual home of Quarter Horse racing.”
 
Guided by the careful oversight and experience of the FQHRA/AQHA executive contingent, Queensland’s new Quarter Horse racing authority will develop accredited competition rules, promote the breeding and acquisition of racing stock and provide for the construction of a safe, regulation racing facility.
 
Multi-million-dollar national American Quarter Horse racing operations have long regarded Florida as ripe for business development.  The consecutive years of growth spearheaded by the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association at Hialeah Park have confirmed the existence of a strong Florida Quarter Horse racing market, but frustrating regulatory disappointments and legal wrangling during the past several years have halted business expansion, with not much encouragement that the yet-existing and prohibitive loopholes deterring that growth will be closed during the 2014 Florida Legislative Session.
 
“The business development capacity that Florida is unwittingly leaving on the table is, instead, being eagerly recruited by those who truly understand the reality of Quarter Horse racing’s economic potential,” Hudson added.  “We hope that our Florida policymakers realize before it’s too late that legislative inaction has not only allowed gambling to continue to expand in Florida without legislative authorization, and worse, at the expense of a lucrative industry that is well recognized and thoroughly understood by much larger, more populous jurisdictions as a pivotal and indispensable economic development tool.”
 
During the past three years, Florida regulators have cited the state’s lack of a definition for “horse racing” as the reason for continuing to award pari-mutuel licenses for questionable events such as “barrel match racing,” “flag drops” and this past week, a series of distorted, miscast timed events that were vehemently opposed by multiple regional and national Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing owner, trainer, breeder and jockey organizations alike.
The activities have undermined both sports by deliberately curtailing the need for the amount of horses (and thus business and employees) that a normal racetrack would otherwise generate.
 
To read more about the Queensland project, click below: