FTBOA’s Lonny Powell on GPTARP: “Thoroughbred people with major investments in the industry don’t like being treated like potted plants”

GPTARP Thoroughbred race deemed illegal

The race was run under the thoroughbred license of the Gulfstream Park Thoroughbred Aftercare Retirement Program, a non-profit subsidiary of The Stronach Group, which also owns Gulfstream Park. Frank Stronach, a major Marion County landowner, is chairman of the group.

FTBOA’s Lonny Powell: “Thoroughbred people with major investments in the industry don’t like being treated like potted plants”

www.Ocala.com

By Carlos E. Medina
Correspondent

Published: Monday, July 15, 2013 at 11:53 a.m.

A 150-yard thoroughbred race run July 1 at Gulfstream Park was held illegally, according to a complaint filed by the Florida Division of Pari-mutuel Wagering.

The race came as a surprise to most in South Florida racing circles, as well as to the Ocala-based board members of the organization that held the race. The race featured three horses that sprinted 150 yards on the part of the Gulfstream track that lies in Miami-Dade County.

The race was run under the thoroughbred license of the Gulfstream Park Thoroughbred Aftercare Retirement Program, a non-profit subsidiary of The Stronach Group, which also owns Gulfstream Park. Frank Stronach, a major Marion County landowner, is chairman of the group.

The administrative complaint by the state alleges the retirement program was required to hold at least two races and did not inform the state of the race at least 10 days prior to its running, as required by law. The complaint seeks to fine the program $1,000 or suspend or revoke its racing permit.

Lonny Powell, executive vice president and CEO of the Ocala-based Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association, said the race was planned without the inclusion of the four association members on the Gulfstream Park Thoroughbred Aftercare Retirement Program board.

“We started insisting about a year ago that GPTARP needed to start treating it like a proper business, with open discussions among board members. Our representatives on the board were never included in a single meeting until we demanded one a couple of months ago. There was a definite understanding that there would be no more surprises, so you can understand the shock we got when a few weeks later this thing happens,” Powell said.

Association members on the program board are J. Michael O’Farrell Jr., Fred Brei, Brent Fernung and Phil Matthews.

“By statute, the FTBOA has four seats on the board. Those members are thoroughbred people with major investments in the industry and they don’t like being treated like potted plants,” Powell said. “They are not figureheads, they are not phantom board members. That has been communicated clearly.”

No one from Gulfstream or the Gulfstream Park Thoroughbred Aftercare Retirement Program could be reached for comment.

The endgame for the race was an attempt to add more casino-style slot machines to the facility using the retirement program license. The move by the organization was criticized for its making a mockery of racing well before the state filed its complaint.

Kent Stirling, executive director of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, which represents owners and trainers who race at both Calder Race Course and Gulfstream Park in South Florida, lamented what some were doing to the sport in order to gain other types of gambling, including card rooms and casino-style slot machines.

Vagaries in the laws led to the state allowing pari-mutuel barrel racing at Gretna Racing in 2011. Earlier this year, an administrative law judge ruled the state overstepped its authority by allowing what amounted to a new form of racing. In gaining the initial license, representatives for Gretna, including Gretna stakeholder Marc Dunbar, argued to the state that the law did not explicitly define racing. Dunbar was also part of the Gulfstream Park Thoroughbred Aftercare Retirement Program race. Dunbar, a longtime Tallahassee lobbyist for Gulfstream, could not be reached for comment.

“They have been getting some very poor advice on how to conduct this thing. I know Mr. Stronach well. I used to work for him. I know this is not the way he would truly want to be conducting business,” Powell said. “It’s supposed to be about the racing of thoroughbreds, not putting on some cheap facade to circumvent the investment which goes into racing to gain other forms of gaming.”

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Prominent Anti-Gambling Advocate “No Casinos” Notes Florida Regulators’ “Nose-Thumbing” at Stern Court Ruling on Phony Horse Racing

Prominent Anti-Gambling Advocate “No Casinos” Notes Florida Regulators’ “Nose-Thumbing” at Stern Court Ruling on Phony Horse Racing

Prominent Anti-Gambling Advocate “No Casinos” Notes Florida Regulators’ “Nose-Thumbing” at Stern Court Ruling on Phony Horse Racing

  • To see United Florida Horsemen’s message to the Governor this week, click here.

In a strongly-worded news release issued this week, June 24, 2013, “No Casinos,” a prominent anti-gambling advocacy group, noted that the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering has essentially “thumbed its nose” at the judge who recently ruled that pari-mutuel wagering on phony horse racing cannot be sanctioned or conducted under current law.

To view the No Casinos news release, click here.

Just days after the court sternly ruled that “pari-mutuel barrel racing” and similarly contrived events run afoul of Florida law, the Division issued yet another such license to Gretna Racing, LLC, after its representatives—the very same attorneys who intervened in the administrative case attempting to defend the Division’s unlawful actions —had sent threatening letters to Florida regulators objecting to enforcement of the judge’s ruling.  Within hours, Florida’s regulators caved.

“The Division is siding with those who want to cleverly skirt the laws – rather than enforcing the full letter and spirit of those laws,” said No Casinos President John Sowinski. “It is time for Secretary Lawson to step in and cancel these licenses before this leads to another un-checked proliferation of gambling like we saw for too long with Internet Cafés.”

Initially, it seemed as though the State would honor the judge’s scathing 85-page rebuke of Gretna’s activities by allowing only legitimate quarter horse racing.  But now, the State appears committed to giving Gretna yet another free pass.

“What’s worse,” Sowinski continued, “it’s clear that operators at Gretna don’t care if anybody even watches the races.  They just want them to take place in order to try to meet the technical requirements of hosting more lucrative forms of gambling, including simulcast, cardrooms, and they hope one day, slot machines.

Normally, the market introduction of any new gambling product would be enabled with the passage of legislation, followed by subsequent regulatory hearings in which public input would be provided and considered.  With “pari-mutuel barrel racing” and its offspring, such as the bootleg racing Gretna conducted this past weekend with the State’s full blessing, none of that process has occurred.

“Florida’s $2.2 billion dollar horse racing industry creates 104,000 documented annual Florida jobs,” explained representatives from the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association, which prevailed in the case.  “Governor Scott has committed to getting Floridians back to work by promoting Florida business the cornerstone of his administration.  Now, we need him to hold true to that vision by putting a stop to this outrageous sidestep of Florida law that doing just the opposite by putting our Florida horsemen and breeders out of work.”

 

 

 

Read more about this issue at  www.FloridaHorsemen.com

 

Gretna “Pari-Mutuel Barrel Racing” Awarded Mystery License

Announcing “business as usual,” Gretna Racing LLC (“Gretna”) applied for and has received an amended racing license from the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering yesterday, June 6, 2013, that authorized it to conduct back-to-back weekends of mysterious and unspecified “quadruple-header” events this month on June 22 and 29.

In the wake of a court ruling against Gretna last month concluding that “pari-mutuel barrel racing” was illegal, the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering ordered the North Florida facility not to conduct the contrived event, which was judged to be a definitive sidestep around Florida’s live horse racing requirements in order to enable Gretna to concurrently hold cardrooms and possibly slot machines.

But, in a snub to the court’s sharply worded 85-page ruling, Gretna immediately and publicly announced it would simply “tweak” the format of its spurious activities and continue on with its self-crafted events, which are not even sanctioned as legitimate barrel racing by the National Barrel Racing Association and other longstanding national organizations.

“Especially in light of the court ruling last month and the pending legislative gaming study underway, the public deserves transparency on the exact details of what is now taking place at Gretna’s facility,” said Kent Stirling, Executive Director of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (FHBPA), a statutory statewide organization of Florida Thoroughbred owners and trainers that joined with the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners Association (FTBOA) in supporting the FQHRA throughout the recent litigation.

“We have seen no indications of any construction taking place on a regulation Quarter Horse racetrack,” said Dr. Steve Fisch, president of the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association (FQHRA), which prevailed in last month’s landmark case. The FQHRA is Florida’s statutory arm of the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA), a national organization with 350,000 members worldwide that ensures proper racing regulation and safe, humane treatment of the horses involved.

“According to amended Gretna license, it appears they are holding eight ‘performances’ held over two Saturdays.  Bearing in mind that a Florida defines a ‘performance’ as eight individual ‘races,’ this means four days’ worth of performances are held in the afternoon and evening of one day.  Normally and historically, eight performances take place over eight different days,” explained Dr. Fisch, a nationally recognized equine veterinarian.

“A major concern is if the horses are performing more than once per day, then the health of the horse and, hence, that of the rider are both at risk,” Dr. Fisch added.  “In American Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred racing, horses race no more than once every fourteen days on average.  Six to eight races per year is an average schedule for a racehorse.   Knowing this, the health and welfare of the horse and rider should always be first and foremost to Florida’s pari-mutuel permitholders.  This is why it’s imperative that an independent group knowledgeable in equine health and welfare must represent horses and horsemen alike.  The FHBPA, FQHRA, AQHA and FTBOA are all established, respected groups that have proven they hold horses’ health as a major criteria on all fronts.”

FQHRA President Dr. Stephen D. Fisch, DVM

“We have seen no indications of any construction taking place on a regulation Quarter Horse racetrack at Gretna’s facility,” said Dr. Steve Fisch, FQHRA president

While Gretna’s cardrooms continued to operate, wagering on Gretna’s “pari-mutuel barrel racing” has been recorded as low as $24 per day and contests there have often been canceled due to lack of interest. Just several months after the initial license was awarded with which “pari-mutuel barrel racing” was conducted, Gadsden County, in which the City of Gretna is located, approved the holding of a referendum to install slot machines at the Gretna Racing facility.

Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation Will Not Appeal May 6, 2013 “Pari-Mutuel Barrel Racing” Ruling

State of Florida Will Not Appeal May 6, 2013 “Pari-Mutuel Barrel Racing” Ruling

Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association

The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation will not appeal a month-old ruling in a long-running lawsuit over “pari-mutuel barrel racing” at Gretna Racing, LLC, (“Gretna”) the United Florida Horsemen learned on June 6, 2013.
 
Since that May 6 ruling, the State of Florida has advised Gretna and Hamilton Downs Jai Alai and Poker, another pari-mutuel permitholder holding similar activities, that both must conduct legitimate horse racing in order to maintain their cardrooms—and possibly slot machines—according to Florida law.
  
Normally, the market introduction of any new gambling product would be enabled with the passage of legislation, followed by subsequent regulatory hearings in which public input would be provided and considered.  With “pari-mutuel barrel racing,” none of that process had occurred, thus spawning the administrative litigation.
 
“We salute Governor Scott and our pari-mutuel regulators for upholding the integrity of the law toward much-needed clarity in Florida’s pari-mutuel statutes,” said Dr. Steve Fisch, President of the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association (FQHRA), which prevailed in the case.  “We have legions of prominent national horsemen and breeders who have been waiting for a positive outcome so they can set up shop in Florida.  After our members drained their hard-earned savings to fight this seemingly endless battle over what was essentially a get-rich-quick scheme, we are hopeful that today’s decision by regulators not to appeal assures Florida’s horsemen that the State really does want to keep and grow its long-held title as a top international horse racing destination.”
 
Meanwhile, co-owners of Gretna—both prominent pari-mutuel lobbyist-lawyers who concurrently litigated the case as “intervenors” on behalf of the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering—filed a notice of appeal earlier this week under a self-owned association name, adding to the turmoil of several still-pending lawsuits directly related to the May 6 “pari-mutuel barrel racing” ruling.  
 
“Each of these yet-to-be-adjudicated spurious lawsuits has been cleverly designed to decimate Florida’s horse racing industry by supporting the premise of phony events that have clearly now been ruled as illegal,” said Kent Stirling, Executive Director of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (FHBPA), a statutory statewide organization of Florida Thoroughbred owners and trainers that joined with the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners Association (FTBOA) in supporting the FQHRA.
 
“We are confident that Gretna’s co-owners have no standing to appeal the May 6 ruling,” Stirling added.
 
But, as the “pari-mutuel barrel racing” case dragged on for nearly two years, yet-existing “Gretna hybrids” and offshoot regulatory schemes devised to capitalize on the “Gretna model” have emerged and remain throughout Florida at various pari-mutuels, and even at leased facilities—all with the intention of sidestepping legitimate, live horse racing.
 
“Horse racing creates over 104,000 documented annual jobs in Florida, and we, together with the Florida Thoroughbred horsemen and our many partners, including the National Barrel Horse Association, have weathered this spurious litigation to protect them,” said Dr. Fisch.  “For each Florida pari-mutuel permit that has been misused during these past few years, thousands of horse racing and breeding jobs and businesses that would have otherwise been created have never had a chance to materialize.  It is the horsemen’s hope that, going forward, these permits will be used as the people of Florida intended—to create the kind of positive economic impact that only legitimate horse racing can bring.”
 
While Gretna’s cardrooms continued to operate, wagering on Gretna’s “pari-mutuel barrel racing” was recorded as low as $24 per day and contests there were often canceled due to lack of interest.  Just several months after the initial license was awarded with which “pari-mutuel barrel racing” was conducted, Gadsden County, in which the City of Gretna is located, approved the holding of a referendum to install slot machines at the Gretna Racing facility.

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:  http://www.drf.com/news/gulfstream-park-slots-petition-has-horsemen-wary 

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

Gretna Pari-Mutuel Barrel Racing
CORRECTIONS AND CLARIFICATIONS

NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
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.

 

TheHorse.com:  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:

ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE STRIKES DOWN STATE OF FLORIDA POLICY ALLOWING “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.

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.’”