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 Horsemen Thwart Horse Racing Decoupling Amendment; FHBPA President Bill White Calls Out Big Casino Maneuvering

Florida Horsemen Thwart Horse Racing Decoupling Amendment; FHBPA President Bill White Calls Out Big Casino Maneuvering

“The State of Florida’s interest in gambling is to generate tax revenue, not to create the most profitable environment for gaming operations.”–FTBOA General Counsel Warren Husband

It was enough to give even the most experienced horseman a bad case of heartburn.

Reckoning day was April 21, 2015 in Tallahassee as the Florida House of Representatives’ powerful Finance and Tax Committee called roll to prepare for a debate on “decoupling,” with a specific amendment on decoupling horse racing taking dead aim on HB 1233, a massive overhaul of the state policy that could substantially expand Florida’s gambling landscape if enacted.

Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (FHBPA) President and Calder Hall of Fame veteran Thoroughbred trainer Bill White straightened his tie, squared his shoulders and walked in.

A pantheon of casino industry lobbyists packed the committee room as White took his place at the front, shoulder to shoulder with his somber colleagues from the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association (FQHRA), Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners Association (FTBOA) and Standardbred interests.  Together, they faced a gallery of legislators preparing to decide on the amendment to “decouple” horse racing from other forms of gambling in Florida.  The fate of horsemen–the trainers, owners and breeders who drive the lucrative horse racing business in the Sunshine State–hung in the balance.

“The State of Florida’s interest in gambling is to generate tax revenue, not to create the most profitable environment for gaming operations,” FTBOA General Counsel Warren Husband explained to legislators.   With 25,000 horses annually engaged in the business of Florida racing or breeding, the biggest economic impact is gained through ensuring adequate racing days, he added.

But in an age of “less government,” the concept of “decoupling” has become the rallying cry of casino operators seeking to rid themselves of horse racing altogether.  As White  listened to their impassioned arguments calling for “fairness” and “leveling the playing field” by leaving it up to pari-mutuel permitholders as to whether to conduct live racing or not, he wondered if legislators were aware of the many livelihoods and small businesses at stake.

He thought of the many faces of FHBPA members who were even now working on the backstretch as he jotted notes to himself far away in Tallahassee, readying himself for the trial by fire at hand.  Just one month into his new role as FHBPA President, the frustration of hearing horse racing trivialized over and over again as unremarkable collateral damage by those who may have never even seen a racetrack welled up in him as he strode to the podium when he was finally called to speak.

Right off the bat, White set the record straight on who the 6,000 FHBPA members are.  “We are the real deal as far as the horse owners who put up the money and the trainers’ small businesses who do the work,” he established.

The actual leveling of the playing field, was done by voters, who approved slots in 2004 to ensure that Florida horse racing could continue to compete with northern tracks already flush with casino money that was luring the best horsemen away from the state, he explained.  Stand-alone casinos were never the intent.

“Slots are here in Florida because of horse racing,” FQHRA Executive Director Steve Fisch said during his testimony.  “(Slots were) not a plan to race a few years, drop racing and then just have slots . . . a fair deal is a two-way street.”

Delivering a powerful punch to casino-only interests in his closing, White called out their presumptuousness in assuming the Florida Legislature would simply cave to special interests and ignore horsemen’s needs.

“Right now, whether you know it or not–even before decoupling might happen, Churchill Downs is tearing down the barns at Calder in anticipation that it will happen.  Horses have been displaced and even put in tents.  It’s been a real hardship.”  White fired his parting salvo:  ” . . . as a horseman who has invested my life in this game, I find this action insulting that an entity would take it upon themselves to do this before the Legislature has even acted.”

The horsemen’s strong unified presence paid off with the defeat of the horse racing decoupling amendment.  And although the greyhound-related decoupling provisions of HB 1233 passed that day, the clock ran out as the 2015 Legislative Session came to a contentious close just over a week later.

“We still have plenty of work to do,” he reminded FHBPA Board members as he gave his report upon coming back home to South Florida.  “I am urging horsemen to take all necessary steps to make your presence known to your Senators and State Representatives.  Your involvement is crucial.”

With the call of a Special Session anticipated this week for legislators to pass a state budget after they were unable to do so during the regularly scheduled Session, the general consensus is that gaming issues will likely not be on the agenda.  However, horsemen are urged to stay vigilant in the event that HB 1233 surfaces during the anticipated June 1 through June 20 Special Session time period.

To view the entire hearing, click HERE.  White’s testimony begins at minute mark 30:20.

“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

 

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

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!

Gambling Expanding Statewide Even As Florida Senate Gaming Committee Considers Proposed Bills Today

March 3, 2014–As the Florida Senate Gaming Committee begins deliberation on hundreds of pages of proposed new gambling and pari-mutuel laws at its meeting today, word of a strange construction project in South Marion County has the area near The Villages buzzing about whether the structure is a card room or a horse racetrack.

According to Florida horse racing industry sources, unknown horse-related competitive events will take place there on March 17, despite the fact that “pari-mutuel barrel racing” was twice declared illegal by a court of law.

Speaking on behalf of nearly 7,000 collective racehorse owners and trainers, Florida horse racing industry officials confirm the project is NOT Thoroughbred racing.  And it’s definitely NOT American Quarter Horse racing, either.

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.

“No one really knows exactly what type of contrived horse activity the South Marion project is intending to conduct.  We can only hope that more phony racing has not been used as an excuse to allow a 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 Florida’s lucrative horse racing industry.”

In 2012, an elderly horsemen was duped into renting his 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.

Representatives from both the FHBPA and FQHRA will attend the Senate Gaming Committee hearing, which begins today at 1:30 p.m. (ET).

“At stake are the many jobs created by our members, the vast majority of whom are small businesses,” Stirling said.  “We are substantially concerned with the ultimate outcome.”

To go directly to the Senate Gaming Committee Web page and meeting materials, click here.

To watch the hearing Webcast live, click here or go to www.TheFloridaChannel.org

To access the Senate Gaming Committee’s proposed bills, click here.

To read more about issues affecting Florida’s horse racing industry, go to www.FloridaHorsemen.com

Florida’s Racing Industry Horsemen Urge to Complete Economic Impact Survey; Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse Professionals Unite

Independent Results will be Presented to the Florida Legislature

  • Link to Survey Below

To ensure that the impact of Florida’s horse racing industry professionals is well represented as the Florida Legislature conducts a first-ever comprehensive evaluation of pari-mutuel and gaming laws, Florida’s horsemen have united to conduct their own study of how their collective businesses and jobs converge to keep Florida’s economy humming.

The Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association and the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association–two of Thoroughbred racing’s top consortiums of owners, trainers and breeders–have joined with the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association and Florida Quarter Horse Breeders’ and Owners’ Association to produce the study, which they plan to present to the Florida Legislature as lawmakers deliberate future policy direction.

Each organization is currently urging its members to complete the study’s survey, the results of which will be used to create the final report.  To complete the survey, go to:   https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/FLRacingImpact

“Just this week, Kentucky’s horse industry reported that it produces a $3 billion dollar annual economic impact,” said FHBPA Executive Director Kent Stirling, who represents some 6,000 Florida Thoroughbred owners and trainers.  “For years, Florida has ranked right along with Kentucky among the top three states as economic drivers in the industry—there’s a reason Ocala is known as the ‘Horse Capital of the World’ and South Florida is hailed as the road to the Kentucky Derby.”

The Ocala-based FTBOA is also working to get the word out to its members, many of who handle multi-million-dollar international Thoroughbred breeding sales and operations.

The American Horse Council conducted the most recent comparable survey in 2005, which revealed that Florida’s horse racing industry has a $2.2 billion dollar annual economic impact and results in 104,000 full-time annual jobs created.

Spectrum Gaming, a private company with casino affiliations, was a controversial selection from among seven vendors earlier this year by the Florida Legislature to conduct a public study of Florida’s gaming and pari-mutuel economic, fiscal and social impact.

The final portion of Spectrum’s study results is scheduled to be released on October 1, 2013.

 

#Florida, #horseracing, #Thoroughbred, #QuarterHorse, #SpectrumGaming, #FloridaLegislature, #FloridaGaming, #FloridaSenate, #FloridaHouse, #parimutuel, #Standardbred, #FloridaGambling, #FTBOA, #FQHRA, #AQHA, #TOBA, #Calder, #HialeahPark, #GulfstreamPark, #TampaBayDowns, #Ocala, #Tampa, #SouthFlorida, #MiamiDade, #Broward, #PalmBeach, #PalmMeadowns, #PaysonPark, #NorthFlorida, #Orlando