Read What National Horse Racing Media Has To Say About Florida’s Misguided “Decoupling” Proposal

bloodhorse-logo1Top national Thoroughbred turfwriter Tom LaMarra noted in his September 29, 2015 column that “Efforts by casino operators and lawmakers to back away from the original intent of laws that linked approval for gaming to live pari-mutuel racing—some of the legislation has titles that expressly mention preservation of horse racing and breeding—are nothing new. In some states the pushback began only several years after the laws took effect.”

“Florida’s two Thoroughbred tracks do far better than most in the country, and it’s apparent by how well their product is received in the marketplace. Messing with that progress now, as the industry attempts to reinvent itself, certainly isn’t the way to go.”

Click HERE to read Tom LaMarra’s entire column, entitled “A Big Step Backward.”

One reader wisely commented:

“If lawmakers want to see the future of horse racing in a decoupled state, they ought to look at Illinois.  Arlington Park, perhaps the finest horse racing facility in the country, has seen its handle plunge an unthinkable 50% in just two years.  Lawmakers there have decimated an entire industry and for what? Because the casino owners want a monopoly share of the gambling market.  It’s not as if the casinos will fail, they will still thrive either way; horse racing tracks will go under and take an entire industry with them.”

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.

Florida Horse Racing Trainer Bonus–FHBPA‬ Fuels ‪‎Gulfstream Park‬ $250 Incentive; Track to Cover Florida Horse Shipping, Return Expenses

Have you heard? ‪#‎FHBPA‬ Partnership Fuels ‪#‎GulfstreamPark‬ $250 Trainer Incentive; Track to Cover Certain Shipping Expenses

The Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association Backstretch Fund will provide the “seed money” for the $250 trainer starter bonus recently announced by Gulfstream Park. The $250 bonus begins July 1 and runs through October 1, 2015.

Note:  At least eight (8) horses must leave the paddock in order for all trainers in the race to be eligible.

The “Backstretch Fund” money does not come from purses (owners).   This is a separate fund that is matched by 50% from Gulfstream Park’s bottom line.  This is the third year that the trainer incentive has been  in place at the Hallandale Beach, Florida racetrack.

Gulfstream will also fully cover shipping and return expenses within Florida for horses competing at the track.

 

 

 

 

Florida Horse Racing Medication Statute To Change on “Racing of Animals Under Certain Conditions Prohibited: Penalties; Exceptions”

It is likely that, by the deadline of June 2, 2015, Florida Governor Rick Scott will sign House Bill 239 Florida Race Day Medication which will change Chapter 550.2415, Florida Statutes rather dramatically.  Chapter 550.2415 is the “medication statute” under whose direction Florida Thoroughbred horsemen have raced for the last 25 or more years.

Despite the fact it was always up to the Florida Legislature to make any changes to this law,  various industry leaders and organizations have freely shared their opinions about Florida being the major “obstructionist” state to the adoption of national uniform medication rules.  Sadly, I have heard this constantly at Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (RMTC) meetings, rehashed to the point that the Jockey Club sent their Executive Vice President to Florida (twice) to meet with the FHBPA and the track veterinarian.  We worked through a lot of issues, but still had one issue that was never resolved to my satisfaction, which we will touch on later.

Meanwhile, for the past two years, Gulfstream Park, the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association and the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association (the Florida Chapter of the American Quarter Horse Association) were on board to get legislation passed that would lead to Florida joining the national movement to achieve uniformity in medication rules.  Ultimately, the 2015 Florida Legislature agreed unanimously with HB 239 which passed the House 112-0 and the Senate by a 40-0 vote.

So exactly what changes can we expect if this bill becomes law and goes into effect on July 1, 2015?   Below, I will review the major revisions to Chapter 550.2415 as they occur in HB 239.

First, language has been changed for drug testing from “immediately prior” to “before” the race to permit testing for gene and blood doping, which can only be detected days before a race and then only has about a two-day “window” for detection after administration.

Second, the fine that the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering (DPMW) can impose for a drug violation has been increased from $5,000 to “an amount not exceeding the purse or sweepstakes earned by the animal . . . or $10,000 whichever is greater.”

Third, the prosecution for a violation of this statute must begin within “90 days” of the drug test positive.  The old language gave the DPMW two years to commence prosecution for a violation.

Fourth, the DPMW must now notify the “appropriate horsemen’s association” of all positive drug test results.  In these cases, the FHBPA can often explain the horsemen’s rights and assist in choosing a split sample laboratory if necessary.

Fifth, if there is an insufficient quantity for a split sample after the lab has called a positive on the sample, the DPMW can take no further action against the trainer, and the positive is dismissed.  In the past, if there was an insufficient quantity for the split sample, the DPMW could take administrative action against the trainer based solely on the Florida Laboratory’s finding.

Sixth, The DPMW “shall require its laboratory . . . to annually participate in an externally administered quality assurance program (QAP) designed to assess testing proficiency in the detection and appropriate quantification of medications, drugs . . . ”  Results and findings of this QAP shall be sent to the DPMW and the Florida Department of Agriculture.

Seventh, the DPMW shall adopt the Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI) Controlled Therapeutic Medication Schedule which, at the time, established thresholds and withdrawal times for 26 medications (which has now grown to 30 medications).  Just about every major racing jurisdiction has adopted these 26 or 30 medications.  The science behind some of thresholds and withdrawal times for these medications is suspect, but for the most part it’s a good start towards national uniformity.

Eighth, the Florida laboratory will now be required to include its measurement uncertainty, or laboratory error, in all quantifications of medications which will greatly reduce the low-level findings of our lab that have led to over 150 bute overages and over 250 clenbuterol positives in the past two years.

Ninth, the DPMW shall adopt any laboratory screening levels approved by the ARCI beyond the 26/30 Controlled Therapeutic  Medications.  If there are none forthcoming from ARCI, Florida could treat these therapeutic medications with zero tolerance testing.

Tenth, prednisolone sodium succinate, better known as Solu-Delta Cortef will no longer be permitted on race day.  Florida was the last state with a legal race day medication beyond Lasix.  We tried to save it, but to no avail.

Eleventh, the statute that permitted testing of ARCI Class IV and V medications only by Thin Layer Chromatography (TLC) that I wrote in 1996 was also deleted from the law by HB 239.   We knew this would be inevitable, but it stood up for 19 years.

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

Florida Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse Owners, Trainers, Breeders Adopt Unprecedented Therapeutic Horse Racing Medication Uniformity Plan

Yet, Florida Legislature May Not Act to Seal the Deal

April 22, 2014–As national voices have gained strength in the debate on the use of therapeutic medication in horse racing, a group of organizations representing nearly 10,000 Florida Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse owners, trainers and breeders had already taken the unprecedented step of uniting behind a uniform policy endorsed by both the Jockey Club and American Quarter Horse Association.  The proposal was filed in the Florida Legislature as amendment language and is yet awaiting the chance to be approved by lawmakers.

Born of a longstanding working partnership known as “United Florida Horsemen” on both Florida legislative and regulatory issues, the agreement was finalized during early April and includes the approval and endorsement of the following professional associations and organizations:

“Unfortunately, with Florida lawmakers having declared pari-mutuel and other gambling issues to be ‘dead’ for this Session, the legislative authorization needed for this unprecedented consensus will most likely have to wait another year,” explained FHBPA Executive Director Kent Stirling, a credentialed national authority who has testified before Congress on the issue.

“Florida horsemen have long stated that their goal has always been a set of national rules that gives all racing jurisdictions a level playing field in terms of thresholds and which medications are allowable.  Earlier this month, working with Matt Iuliano from the Jockey Club, we were finally able to draft and submit legislation here in Florida which achieves that goal,” explained FHBPA President Phil Combest.

Among the most notable components of the plan espoused by the United Florida Horsemen was the adoption of Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI) Penalty Guidelines and agreement to adopt the Schedule of ARCI Controlled Therapeutic Medications.

“With the power of Florida’s horsemen now in complete alignment, we’re optimistic that the recent commitments toward uniformity by our industry colleagues will continue to drive the national conversation toward state-by-state adoption of both legislation and regulation necessary to make real uniformity a reality,” Stirling said.  “While we wait on Florida’s Legislature to act—hopefully in alignment with the aggressive goals set forth this week by the Stronach Group’s ambitious plan, we’re confident that Florida now sets the standard for true uniformity for others that have yet to come on board.”

Florida’s 2014 Legislative Session concludes on May 2.

To learn more about legislative and regulatory issues facing Florida’s billion-dollar horse racing industry, go to www.FloridaHorsemen.com

Florida Gambling Expansion Alive and Well TODAY in South Marion County With More Phony Horse Events Leveraged for New Card Room

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

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

April 7, 2014–Even as Florida lawmakers declared gambling expansion to be a “dead issue” last week, it ironically expanded TODAY in South Marion County, thanks to Florida regulators issuing a license for more unaccredited horse-related “timed events” enabling the pari-mutuel permitholder of “South Marion Real Estate Holdings” to open a 365-day a year card room at a facility it calls “Oxford Downs” near The Villages—a popular Central Florida retirement community.

“We cannot fathom why Florida seems intent on dismantling its billion-dollar horse racing industry in this manner,” said Kent Stirling, Executive Director of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (FHBPA).  “As lawmakers deliberate the importance of funds for the State Budget this week, the loss of horse racing’s substantial economic and job creation engine is something taxpayers can ill afford.”

Because Florida law provides no definition of “horse racing,” regulators have continued to issue licenses to some pari-mutuel permitholders for various contrived activities that skirt the State’s requirement for live horse racing in order to hold cardrooms or slot machines.  The activities dramatically curtail the amount of horses (and thus businesses and employees) that would normally be needed to conduct a legitimate race meeting and corresponding breeding industry.

In a last-ditch effort to educate the Marion County Commission that gambling would be expanding in the heart of Florida’s internationally-acclaimed racehorse breeding industry to the detriment of their own constituents, longstanding Florida Thoroughbred and Quarter Horsemen described “Oxford Downs” as a “mockery” and a “Trojan Horse.”  To read their letters to the editor in today’s Ocala Star-Banner, click here.

National and regional organizations opposing the “South Marion/Oxford Downs” project have included the American Quarter Horse Association, the Jockey’s Guild, FHBPA, Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association, Florida Quarter Horse Breeders’ and Owners’ Association, Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association and Ocala Breeders’ Sales.  Membership in these organizations totals nearly 400,000 horsemen–accredited racehorse owners, trainers, jockeys and breeders worldwide.

After reportedly being physically intimidated with vehicles, and verbally menaced with arrest and other threats, officials from a major Florida horse racing industry group attempting to attend today’s public “South Marion/Oxford Downs” events were ordered to leave.

Below are hyperlinks to the South Marion Real Estate Holdings pari-mutuel license information.

Permitholder Application for Annual License and Operating Day SOUTH MARION REAL ESTATE HOLDINGS, LLC Primary 545
PM Operate Lic
Current
06/30/2014
                        Main Address*: PO BOX 650 OXFORD, FL 34484
Permit to Conduct Pari-Mutuel Wagering SOUTH MARION REAL ESTATE HOLDINGS, LLC Primary 545
PMW Permit
Current
                        Main Address*: PO BOX 650 OXFORD, FL 34484