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


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:


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.’”


Florida’s Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Associations Urge Warring South Florida Tracks to Settle Their Differences—And Soon

With South Florida’s two Thoroughbred tracks engaging in an escalating regulatory battle over racing dates, the professionals who do the “heavy lifting” to provide the actual horse racing product—the horse owners, trainers and breeders—find themselves as unexpected bystanders in an unwanted dispute.  Thus, the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (FHBPA), made up of Thoroughbred owners and trainers, and the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association  (FTBOA) can only urge Gulfstream Park and Calder Casino and Racing—each facility remotely controlled by giant corporations—to settle their differences—and quickly.

“I’m all about the free market, but there are certain types of products that require a greater degree of regulation.  Horse racing is one of them,” said FHBPA Executive Director Kent Stirling.  “Done right, horse racing and breeding affords Florida with enormous economic impact because of all the jobs and businesses it creates.   But unfortunately, the current dates conflict is rooted in a statutory glitch that is being exploited by clever lawyering at the expense of what could be most beneficial for all of us, not to mention Florida taxpayers.”

Overlapping dates can drain the local horse population and fragment wagering dollars—making it difficult for the entire industry to prosper.

“This serious distraction of racing dates overlap, combined with other current issues like ‘pari-mutuel barrel racing’ and related spurious lawsuits over the constitutionality of independent horsemen’s associations have the real potential of scaring away investors in Florida’s horse racing industry,” Stirling said.  “Most of our members are small business owners and need to feel confident that their investment in Florida is protected and fostered.”

Lonny Powell, a former horse racing regulator and track operator, who now serves as CEO of the FTBOA agreed.  “It’s imperative that our members—Thoroughbred breeders, horse and farm owners throughout the state—see a flourishing, stable and growing racing industry in South Florida.  We certainly want both of these tracks and all horsemen racing in Florida to prosper.   It’s more than troublesome that this dates overlap crisis distracts from all of our collective efforts to grow Florida’s $2.2 billion-a-year Thoroughbred racing and breeding industry, which among the national few that show an increase in foal numbers, while our tracks continue to offer races that consistently feature some of the best competition on the national stage.  To place any of this at risk for a self-inflicted dates overlap collision course causes us much concern and frustration.  History has clearly shown there is no industry upside that comes from an uncooperative and intensely competitive dates battle like we’re facing here in South Florida”

Phil Matthews, a prominent veterinarian and FTBOA president, agreed.  “Much to all of our frustration, it appears that both we and the FHBPA have little ability to affect the situation.  That’s why it’s important for our policymakers to understand our members have a major investment in putting horses—our core product—out on the track, so Florida’s Thoroughbred industry can thrive.  It is imperative that we do everything we can to encourage these giant corporations to make the right decisions, not just for both their respective facilities, but for the industry and marketplace as well.  In fact, our future depends on it.”

Both organizations agree it’s long overdue for Gulfstream and Calder to finally settle their key competitive differences and successfully move forward. 

“The addition of slot revenues to purses has kept Florida competitive and held our place in the prestigious international world of Thoroughbred racing,” FHBPA President Phil Combest added.  “It was Florida’s horse racing industry that provided the platform and the partnership for the corporations that control these facilities to bring slots to Florida to begin with.  Because the horsemen stand to lose the most in this crisis, we’d like to see this conflict settled very soon.”

Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering Evades Public Scrutiny and Accountability by Denying Fair Hearing on Legality of Gretna Would-be Casino’s “Pari-Mutuel Barrel Racing,” United Florida Horsemen State

In the wake of the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering’s highly questionable flat refusal to even hold a public hearing on administrative petitions asking whether of “pari-mutuel barrel racing” at Gretna Racing LLC is, in fact, legal, the United Florida Horsemen issued the following statement:

“As the Florida Legislature moves inexorably towards the January commencement of the 2012 Session, the gambling landscape across the state has exploded into chaos.  Slot machines are breeding rampantly.  Millions of dollars are being spent to further the approval of huge destination resorts.  And even more insidiously, the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering has unilaterally approved ‘pari-mutuel barrel racing’ as a brand new gambling product in Florida by allowing Gretna Racing, LLC to exploit Florida’s lack of a statutory definition of ‘horse racing.’ 

In doing so, the Division has somehow completely evaded any public scrutiny or accountability by not only denying a fair hearing on the issue, but also by its denial creates further legal roadblocks to revealing how and why it would make such a highly questionable approval.  If a law is vague, it should be the Legislature’s role to clarify it, rather than have a regulatory agency take it upon itself to pre-emptively usurp that power.   Thus, by creating this new gambling product, the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering has irresponsibly opened the floodgates to expanded gambling.  To make matters worse, in condoning this mockery of the law, the State of Florida is actually killing jobs instead of creating them.  ‘Pari-mutuel barrel racing’ is deliberately designed to sharply curtail the number of competing horses and essentially replace them with slot machines.  That equals many fewer Florida jobs.

On behalf of nearly 450,000 Florida and national horsemen in eight horsemen’s associations, which include the National Barrel Horse Association and the American Quarter Horse Association, the United Florida Horsemen deplore the Division’s misguided and unfortunate decision to deny our comprehensive petitions against these illegal actions.  Without the proper light shed on this dubious action, the outcome will severely impact Florida’s multi-billion dollar horse racing industry.  An industry that employs more people and creates more economic impact than any other form of Florida gambling combined. 

In fact, were it not for the solid platform of Florida’s successful horse racing industry, upon which our Legislature has always depended for consistent economic development and healthy revenue generation, Floridians would not have ever seen fit to allow other forms of gambling to co-exist.  Now that this trust has been broken through the Division’s sanction of Gretna Racing LLC’s clever lawyering and loophole exploitation, Florida is deluged with wanton slot machine and gambling proliferation.  And the Legislature will soon find itself nearly powerless to control the monster.”