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

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

 

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 

Florida’s Horsemen United Today at Florida Senate Gaming Committee Presentation on Horse Racing Industry’s $2.2 Billion Economic Impact

“Let me be clear:  Our hard-working horsemen will not allow the recent rash of phony horse-related events to enable a greedy few to squander our enormous job-creation engine for the people of Florida, or make a mockery of our state to the international horse racing community.” –FHBPA Executive Director Kent Stirling
 

Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (FHBPA) Executive Director Kent Stirling will be present at the Florida Senate Committee on Gaming meeting today, February 4, 2013, in support of Dr. Steve Fisch of the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association (FQHRA), who will present data on the multi-billion-dollar economic impact of Florida’s horse racing industry.

Dr. Fisch will be among the speakers at the meeting today, which begins at 2 p.m. (ET) and is scheduled to run until 5 p.m. (ET).  To view Dr. Fisch’s presentation and the complete meeting materials, click here (begins on page 68).  The meeting will be Webcast live on The Florida Channel’s “Web 3.”

The FHBPA, which represents nearly 6,000 owners and trainers of Florida’s Thoroughbred racing industry, has been working closely with the FQHRA—the Florida arm of the American Quarter Horse Association—to address the recent rash of phony horse-related events in Florida that have been used spuriously by various pari-mutuel permitholders statewide to bypass Florida’s live horse racing requirements in their attempt to secure slot machine licenses.

“It is imperative that the development of any long-term gaming policy by Florida’s Legislature take into account the $2.2 billion annual economic impact of Florida’s horse racing industry,” Stirling emphasized.  “Legitimate horse racing in Florida employs over 104,000 people annually, and is responsible for our Ocala-based horse breeding industry annually ranking among the top three states in the nation.”

The two horsemen’s associations have strongly questioned both the legality and use of the phony horse events, which have been deliberately designed to drastically curtail the usual thousands of horses needed for a normal race meet down to as few as two horses—thus completely eliminating thousands of jobs that would otherwise be needed to support normal racing activities, such as racetrack operations, racehorse training and ancillary breeding industries that drive the horse racing industry’s enormous Florida economic impact.

Stirling added.  “Let me be clear:  Our hard-working horsemen will not allow the recent rash of phony horse-related events to enable a greedy few to squander our enormous job-creation engine for the people of Florida, or make a mockery of our state to the international horse racing community.”

To view a list of other speakers at today’s Senate Gaming Committee meeting, click here.

To go directly to the Committee’s Web page, click here.

For additional information, go to www.FloridaHorsemen.com

Questionable Pari-Mutuel Barrel Racing Decision Raises Ire of Florida Horsemen, Daily Racing Form’s Mike Welsch Reports

Florida approves parimutuel betting for barrel-racing facility

November 10, 2011
 
MIAMI – The Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering last month approved an application by Gretna Racing LLC to conduct parimutuel barrel racing at its facility in the town of Gretna, Fla. The meet is scheduled to open on Dec. 1 and extend into 2012, paving the way for a year-round poker room and potentially a slot-machine facility at the property.

Gretna Racing is a partnership between the Poarch Band of Creek Indians and developer David Romanik. The town of Gretna, located in the Florida panhandle about 25 miles west of Tallahassee, has a population of fewer than 3,000.

The decision by the state’s wagering panel has raised the ire of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association, the Florida Quarter Horse Association, and the Florida Standarbreds Association, all of whom maintain that parimutuel barrel racing is not authorized under state law.

Florida’s horse racing industry fights Gretna pari-mutuel barrel racing license award as retailers line up against casinos, Gray Rohrer of The Florida Current reports

By Gray Rohrer, 11/07/2011

www.TheFloridaCurrent.com

The Florida Retail Federation announced Monday it will oppose attempts to place large casinos in South Florida, adding to the contingent of business groups standing against those efforts.

It shares the fears of the Beacon Council, Miami-Dade County’s economic development arm, that the large destination resort casinos envisioned by HB 487 and SB 710 would merely “cannibalize” the existing dollars in South Florida by drawing economic activity away from local shops and businesses instead of pulling in high-rolling foreign tourist dollars as casino operators contend.

“For Florida retailers, the short-term employment gains of expanding casino gambling would not be worth the long-term damage we might inflict on Florida’s family-friendly brand. The Florida Retail Federation is opposing the casino legislation, and we are encouraging our members to contact their legislators directly with their concerns,” FRF president and CEO Rick McAllister said in a released statement.

Other powerful business interests such as the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Walt Disney Co. also are voicing opposition to the bills, claiming the casinos will draw away from the family-friendly nature of Central Florida’s tourist attractions.

But bill sponsors Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, and Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, assert their intention is not to expand gaming, but to more strictly regulate it. Most of their 11- page bill is dedicated to the establishment of a gaming commission that will set and enforce rules for gaming operations.

When asked why they don’t simply support stand-alone legislation to eliminate internet sweepstakes cafes — the storefronts that offer slot-like games and are decried by social conservatives opposed to all gaming — Bogdanoff said last week that would be a “political statement and not political reality.”

Meanwhile, Florida’s existing gaming operators – the Seminole Tribe and pari-mutuel owners – are also decrying the bill, but the horse racing industry is more concerned about a recent license issued to Gretna Racing to run barrel races – horse races around a course of barrels set up in a rodeo-like track.

Barrel races are not a traditional event for gamblers, and horse racing groups have filed an administrative challenge with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering over the license, which they contend is a screen to operate a card room and slot machines. The barrel races use fewer horses, pay out much less money (the Gretna track has promised a $38,000 prize payout over races through December and January, compared to the $6 million payouts some traditional horse racing tracks pay out over the course of a year) and employ fewer people, so operators need less overhead to meet state requirements for horse races in order to run card games and slots.

“This could be the end of our industry,” said Kent Stirling, executive director of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association. “It’s just a get-rich-quick scheme. Once you run and you’re open, you can open a card room almost immediately – and now they want slots.”

The Gadsden County Commission voted last month to place a countywide referendum to allow slots at the Gretna track on the presidential preference primary Jan. 31, when Republicans will make their selection for their party’s nomination. As of Monday, the 3,805 registered Republicans in Gadsden County make up 13 percent of the electorate in the rural Panhandle county. Since Florida has closed primaries, the slot machine referendum and a separate county tax referendum would be the only items up for a vote for the rest of voters.

Stirling’s group, along with other horse racing industry groups, have petitioned for an administrative challenge to the barrel racing license that would also remove the Gadsden slot machine ballot from the referendum.

 

Florida Pari-Mutuel and Gadsden Casino Slot Gaming: Gretna Barrel Racing Does Not Qualify as Horse Racing or Pari-Mutuel Event, Florida Horsemen Explain

“Barrel racing” is not defined as “horse racing” under Florida law: Opposition to Gretna Barrel Racing Balloons to Nearly One-Half Million Florida and National Horsemen

The United Florida Horsemen, which comprises the organizations listed below, issued the following statement subsequent to the November 1, 2011 decision by the Gadsden County Commission to put a referendum on the January 31, 2012 Republican Presidential Ballot that would ask voters whether they want to approve slot machines at Gretna Casino:

“We maintain that “barrel racing” is not defined as “horse racing” under Florida law.”

•           National and Florida Barrel Horse Association (24,000 members)

•           American Quarter Horse Association (350,000 national members; 7,163Floridamembers)

•           Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association (439 members)

•           U.S. Trotting Association (25,000 members)

•           Florida Standardbred Owners and Breeders Association (630 members)

•           Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association (1,300 members)

•           National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (35,000 members)

•           Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (5,000 members)

Real Horse Racing Employs More People

Bona fide, legal horse racing simply creates more jobs than all slots, casinos and barrel racing gimmicks combined.

Since a racetrack hosting 1,000 horses per season creates an average of 7,000 jobs,Floridahorse racing contributes to a documented 51,700 jobs and $2.2 billion annual economic impact.  These jobs include positions such as admissions personnel, mutuels clerks, track maintenance professionals, groundskeepers, security guards, concessions workers, track and state racing officials, executives, marketing and public relations professionals.  And that’s just the “frontside.”  On the average backstretch of a real racetrack, positions include incoming farm personnel, veterinarians, trainers, jockeys, exercise riders, grooms, hotwalkers, blacksmiths, feed and bedding distributors, equipment vendors, drivers, and even bookkeepers and chaplains.

Legitimate horse racing inspires people to come toFloridafor its warm climate and the type of horse-friendly culture that has madeOcalaandMarionCountyworld famous.  There, breeders have set up the type of  rolling, picturesque farms that the people ofGadsdenCountyand the City ofGretnawere promised –the type of prestigious, family businesses that truly grow a racetrack into a community tradition.

The Economics of True Horse Racing

In traditional pari-mutuel horse racing, “purses” (prize money) are derived as a percentage of “handle” (amount of money wagered).  InFlorida, real Quarter Horse racing offers purses of nearly $4 million, which are monitored and prescribed by the protections of state and federal law.  In stark contrast,Gretna barrel racing will afford only an arbitrarily set amount of $38,000, which is not derived as a percentage of handle. 

Under federal law, a track must enable participating horsemen to be part of the purse-setting process.  BecauseGretnaracing literally owns its own horsemen’s group, that safeguard is eliminated through a forced agreement.  That agreement eliminates members’ negotiation rights, which are also protected under federal law.

Barrel Racing:  The Cheap Excuse for Slots

Barrel racing events atGretnawill be conducted with two horses at a time rather than a field of horses.  Because single barrel horses typically run multiple events in short time periods, declaring a “race meet” of barrel racers literally requires only a fraction of the number of horses it would take to hold a real horse racing meet.  With fewer horses, track owners only need to make minimal accommodations for horses and their caretakers.  This translates into even fewer jobs created. 

AtGretna’s facility, overnight stalls and accommodations have yet to be built.  Because the proposed barrel racing requires fewer horses and thereby less personnel, this effectively eliminates the seven jobs per horse (and the resultant economic infrastructure) with which real horse racing can legitimately benefit a community.

In fact, the entire 41 days of Gretna Racing’s “meet” could actually be conducted with only 24 horses, over which no regulatory controls have been placed to ensure the integrity and uniformity of the race process, thus leaving the question of whether the public betting interest is protected.