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.

“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

 

No April Fool’s Joke—but the Phony South Marion Real Estate Holdings “Horse Racing” Will Be

Marion Gaming Management, Central Florida Gaming, Ft. Myers Real Estate Holdings

Check out the “facilities” at Florida’s newest “racetrack”

In the wake of Gretna “pari-mutuel barrel racing,” “flag-drops” and other contrived events designed to skirt Florida’s live racing requirements, another spurious pari-mutuel permit known as “South Marion Real Estate Holdings” [a.k.a. Central Florida Gaming, Marion Management and (prior to 2012) Ft. Myers Real Estate Holdings] has been granted yet another questionable racing license by the Florida Divison of Pari-Mutuel Wagering to conduct yet-unknown horse-related events.

Florida horse racing industry officials confirm the project is NOT Quarter Horse racing.  And it’s definitely NOT Thoroughbred racing, either.  Officials from five different professional horsemen’s associations representing nearly 10,000 racehorse owners, trainers and breeders will be present at the Marion County Commission at 9 a.m. tomorrow (April 1) to testify against the South Marion Real Estate Holdings project.

“No one really knows exactly what type of contrived horse activity the South Marion Real Estate Holdings project has been licensed to conduct, but we are certain that more phony activities will now take place as an excuse to allow another year ’round card room,” said Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (FHBPA) Executive Director Kent Stirling.  “It’s a good example of how unchecked gambling is expanding statewide at the direct expense of our lucrative horse racing industry.”

In 2012, an elderly horsemen was duped into renting his accredited American Quarter Horses for what he thought was a practice session under the auspices of the South Marion Real Estate Holdings pari-mutuel permit.   He reported seeing Florida regulators and law enforcement officials on hand at the event, which made him initially believe what he was doing was legitimate horse racing, but upon later consideration, he felt he had been misled.  To read the complete story as reported by Matt Hegarty of the Daily Racing Form, click here.

“This is about Florida continuing to allow pari-mutuel permitholders to sidestep Florida’s live racing requirements, regardless of the law, court rulings, the Florida horse racing industry’s billion-dollar annual economic impact and the tens of thousands of jobs it produces,” Stirling added.   “If your business depends on the Florida horse racing industry, you need to be present at this meeting tomorrow.”

According to Florida horse racing industry sources, despite the fact that “pari-mutuel barrel racing” was twice declared illegal by a court of law, the unknown horse-related competitive events will take place at the South Marion property in what appears to be a “bull ring” type structure with an adjacent modular trailer set up as a cardroom.

The American Quarter Horse Association and its Florida chapter, the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association (FQHRA) report that no one has contacted either organization in reference to the South Marion project to apply for accreditation as legitimate Quarter Horse racing.

The Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association issued a call to action today as well, with the following article providing additional detail on this urgent issue:

 

“Flimflam Fields”

BY DAVE ALLEN

www.FTBOA.com

“If you believe this is a racetrack, then I have some prime swampland in Florida to sell you.”

There is an oval of dirt that has been scratched out of the weeds of South Marion County, but the shape of it is the only thing that remotely resembles a “racetrack.”

Unlike most racetracks, this “track” has no grandstand, no bleachers, no concessions and the “facilities” leave a LOT to be desired. The “placing judges’ stand” hovering above the finish line could be confused for a children’s playhouse on stilts, while the remaining structures include a modular office trailer and a shack.

The track itself is surrounded by rigid wooden fences (instead of safety rails), negligible banking on the turns, and—perhaps a nod to the legendary racetracks of Europe—a hill on the backstretch. It might be the only horse track in America that demands its participants climb their way to the finish line.

With so little initial investment in building a real racetrack, it’s tough to see how further development would happen after a permit for a card room was issued.

So why do thoroughbred breeders and owners need to be concerned about the presence of a “bush” track in their own backyard?

Besides the poor facilities damaging the reputation of legitimate horse racing and dubious track conditions needlessly endangering the lives of horses and riders, this contrived form of racing will lower the standard for what is required to operate a racetrack. It will establish the bare minimum requirements a permit holder needs to meet in order to open a card room. If permitholders are allowed to open card rooms by offering bottom-level races for minimal purses at facilities that don’t promote horse racing, then horse owners and breeders can expect a diminishing value of their stallions, broodmares, and racehorses because the purse money won’t be there in the future.

It is suspected that the South Marion County facility is hurrying to hold a day of racing because the Florida Legislature is currently considering reforming the racing and gaming laws in the state. Many people believe that they are trying to hold a race day to ensure that this form of racing is grandfathered-in should a reform bill be passed into law.

The American Quarter Horse Association and the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association opposes the opening of this track, as well as the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association, the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company, and the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association.

Marion County is proud of the title “Horse Capital of the World”, and it deserves a racetrack that reflects the pride of the owners, breeders, and horsemen who produce champion race horses in the Sunshine State. Anything less than a first-class facility diminishes the strong reputation that we have worked so hard to build.

What can you do about it? Speak up!

The Board of County Commissioners for Marion County will be holding a 9 a.m. meeting on Tuesday, April 1, at the McPherson Complex Auditorium in Ocala. The Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association strongly encourages its members to attend this meeting and to sign-up to make a brief public comment in opposition to this track. Public comments are limited to two minutes.

Location:

McPherson Complex Auditorium
601 SE 25th Ave.
Ocala, Florida 33470

Don’t miss your chance to stand-up for legitimate horse racing!

 

 

If You Go Tomorrow:

 

Marion County Commission Meeting

McPherson Complex Auditorium
601 SE 25th Ave.
Ocala, Florida 33470

Click HERE for meeting information and LIVE Weblink

Click HERE to email the Marion County Commission to tell them what you think of PHONY HORSE RACING!

“Pari-Mutuel Barrel Racing” Is An Unadopted Rule, Florida’s First District Court of Appeal Affirms

In a short opinion issued today, February 7, 2014, the First District Court of Appeal (“First DCA”) affirmed last year’s lower court ruling that Florida pari-mutuel regulators’ licensing of “pari-mutuel barrel racing” failed to follow proper rulemaking procedure.

To view the opinion, click HERE.

“ . . . the narrow issue in this case is whether the (Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering’s) policy of treating barrel match racing as an authorized form of quarter horse racing is an unadopted rule,” the First DCA judges wrote today.

“The irony is that, during the years of litigation on this case, the professional riders who actually compete in real barrel racing have come to learn that the empty promises made by ‘pari-mutuel barrel racing’ were not about promoting their sport, but about Gretna Racing LLC using them as a means to run a cardroom 365 days a year,” said Kent Stirling, Executive Director of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, a statewide organization comprising over 6,000 Thoroughbred owners and trainers that supported the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association in the litigation.

“The unfortunate aftermath of ‘pari-mutuel barrel racing’ is that the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering immediately pivoted and issued a license to Gretna for ‘flag drop racing’—another contrived event conjured up for the same exploitative purpose,” Stirling added.   “The collateral damage for this and other statewide misuses of American Quarter Horse pari-mutuel permits is that the State of Florida cannot fully realize the immense positive economic benefit that legitimate horse racing actually brings.”

Hialeah Park, the only venue in Florida that hosts AQHA-accredited American Quarter Horse racing under the stewardship of the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association, has seen record crowds and growing wagering handle each year.

“This case is not about the merits of one sport over another,” explained Trey Buck, Executive Director of Racing for the American Quarter Horse Association.  “It’s about following the rules.  The fact is, legitimate American Quarter Horse racing is a proven economic driver nationwide.  By ensuring AQHA accreditation of American Quarter Horse racing, the State of Florida can be assured it is not only maximizing the revenue-generation of its pari-mutuel permits, but ensuring the integrity and safety of the events for fans and participants alike.”

About the American Quarter Horse Association

AQHA is the world’s largest breed registry and equine organization with its international headquarters located in Amarillo, TX.

AQHA issues and maintains the pedigrees, registration and performance records of American Quarter Horses.  AQHA also promulgates rules and regulations that govern AQHA-approved events and competition including competition involving the pari-mutuel racing of American Quarter Horses and the showing of American Quarter Horses.

The AQHA rules and regulations that govern the pari-mutuel racing of American Quarter Horses are contained in the Racing Rules and Regulations section of the AQHA Official Handbook of Rules & Regulations.  AQHA does not recognize barrel racing as a pari-mutuel racing event.  Instead, barrel racing is considered a “show” event and as such is governed by the show rules and regulations set forth in Show and Performance sections of the AQHA Official Handbook of Rules & Regulations.

While rules of Racing Authorities take precedence, AQHA, for purposes of AQHA records and programs, reserves the right to deny or revoke recognition of a race which does not observe the rules and regulations contained herein. American Quarter Horse racing is defined as two or more American Quarter Horses registered with the American Quarter Horse Association, entered and competing in the same race at the same time from a regulation starting gate, at distances and conditions recognized by AQHA and running at full speed, unimpeded by obstacles, thru a common finish line.

In short, AQHA supports both types of disciplines as competition for American Quarter Horses.  Horse racing is conducted on a traditional oval racetrack covering distances between 110 and 1,000 yards without obstacles.  Barrel racing is an individually timed contest conducted in a pen or arena running around 3 evenly spaced barrels or obstacles.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Rectifying Past Florida Pari-Mutuel Regulatory Wrongs A Step in the Right Direction, Horsemen Say

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