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.”


“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


Calder Casino Operating Slot Machines in Miami-Dade Without Statutory Purse Agreement, Florida Horsemen Advise

Casino and Race Course (Calder) received a slot machine license from the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering (Division) on July 2, 2013 without first fulfilling a statutory requisite, the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (FHBPA) advised the Miami-Dade-based racetrack officials in a letter sent yesterday, July 16, 2013.  Calder has been operating its slot machines in that manner since then.

To view a copy of the July 2, 2013 slot license issued to Calder, click here:  Calder Slot License Issued July 2, 2013

Calder Casino and Race Course (Calder) received a slot machine license from the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering (Division) on July 2, 2013 without first fulfilling a statutory requisite, the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (FHBPA) advised the Miami-Dade-based racetrack officials in a letter sent yesterday, July 16, 2013.

Click to Enlarge: Florida Horsemen Advise Calder Casino That it is Operating Miami-Dade Slot Machines Without Statutory Purse Agreement

Under Florida law, the Division must have on file a binding agreement between any Thoroughbred pari-mutuel permitholder and the FHBPA that governs the payment of purses on live Thoroughbred races at the permitholder’s pari-mutuel facility before awarding or renewing a license to operate slot machines.

Calder’s slot license was renewed, even though no such agreement presently exists.

“In its attempt to demonstrate legal compliance, Calder submitted something altogether different to the Division, which, in turn, awarded the license anyway,” FHBPA Executive Director Kent Stirling explained.  “It’s pretty clear that everyone involved knew that Calder never signed an actual purse contract with the FHBPA, nor did anyone check with us to ask whether they did.”

§551.104(10)(a), Fla. Stats. provides in pertinent part:

“No slot machine license or renewal thereof shall be issued to an applicant holding a permit under chapter 550 to conduct pari-mutuel wagering meets of thoroughbred racing unless the applicant has on file with the division a binding written agreement between the applicant and the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, Inc., governing the payment of purses on live thoroughbred races conducted at the licensee’s pari-mutuel facility.”

The FHBPA Board of Directors voted on Monday, July 15 to withdraw its consent to Calder’s simulcasting effective July 25, 2013, and to take any appropriate additional action should Calder not finalize a statutory purse agreement by that time.

“Purse negotiations have been ongoing with Calder officials since last year,” FHBPA President Phil Combest.  “After months of good faith efforts by the FHBPA, the fact that Calder would receive and operate its slot license is a complete slap in the face to our horsemen and their many businesses that depend upon quality live horse racing to keep people employed.”

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’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

Florida Senate Gaming Committee Schedules Two Meetings in January 2013; Florida’s Horsemen Applaud Chairman Richter’s Commitment to Study Complete Florida Gaming Landscape, Economic Impact

Florida Senate Gaming Committee Schedules Two Meetings in January 2013

Florida’s Horsemen Applaud Chairman Richter’s Commitment to Study Complete Florida Gaming Landscape, Economic Impact

After its initial meeting was canceled during early December, the Florida Senate’s new Gaming Committee will convene on January 14 and 22, 2013 during the Legislature’s regular Interim Committee Week schedules.

“I am confident I speak for the 104,000 Floridians employed annually by the horse racing industry that we are very encouraged by Chairman Garrett Richter’s commitment to do a complete economic analysis of all gambling in the state,” said Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association Executive Director Kent Stirling.  “Horse racing generates $2.2 billion a year for Florida and draws global interest to our state.  Because the precipitous side effects of both existing and proposed gaming policies have not yet been duly considered, members of the Senate Gaming Committee will certainly be shocked to learn that we are already killing thousands of Florida jobs during this past year—not creating them.”

Recently, certain Florida pari-mutuel permitholders have been allowed to open cardrooms and apply for slot machine licenses under the pretense of conducting phony horse-related events such as “pari-mutuel barrel racing” that are purposefully designed to drastically eliminate the need for competing horses, horse breeding and the many jobs and economic impact these activities create.

“Would Florida rather have slot machines and many, many more jobs and businesses? Or slot machines and just a few jobs?” Stirling remarked.  “That’s the difference between having real horse racing and allowing these rapacious imposters to continue their scheme.”

Allowed as a brand new gambling product without enabling legislation, regulatory hearings or public input, activities such as “pari-mutuel barrel racing” and its copycat hybrid activities have rapidly spread throughout the State as a work-around to cardrooms and slot machines at the expense of horse racing that would otherwise result in the creation tens of thousands of jobs and businesses.  Wagering handle as low as $24 a day has been recorded for “pari-mutuel barrel racing,” with the resulting state pari-mutuel taxes generated plummeting to less than $20 a day.

Florida Senate’s New Gaming Committee Must Contemplate Dire Economic Cost of Phony Horse Events Enabling Statewide Slot Machine Proliferation

Florida Senate Gaming Committee Chairman Garrett Richter
Above:  Senate President Pro Tempore Garrett Richter will guide the Florida Senate’s newly created Gaming Committee in 2013

Note:  The first meeting of the new Senate Gaming Committee, originally scheduled for December 3, 2012, has been canceled.

It was announced on November 28, 2012, that the Florida Senate’s newly created Gaming Committee will be chaired by Senate President Pro Tempore Garrett Richter.  Senator Maria Sachs will serve as Vice Chair.

  • Information on the Senate Gaming Committee and its membership is reprinted below.

Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association Executive Director Kent Stirling, who represents nearly 6,000 Florida Thoroughbred horsemen, said of the new Committee: 

“The 104,000 people employed by Florida’s $2.2 billion dollar horse racing industry congratulates Senator Richter, Senator Sachs and all the members of this important new Committee.

“As Senators begin their careful study of the facts surrounding Florida’s convoluted gambling laws and regulations, it is critical to know that the statewide rush to hold county slot machine referendums has been largely fueled over the past year by the use of phony, contrived horse-related events such as ‘pari-mutuel barrel racing’ and copycat hybrids deliberately designed to skirt both state and federal law at the expense of our livelihoods.

“These phony events—brand new gambling products that were allowed with no enabling legislation, regulatory hearings or public input—exploit the fact that Florida has no legal definition of ‘horse race.’

“Not even real barrel racing or horse racing, these illegitimate events have been fabricated by rogue pari-mutuel permitholders and their casino interests to purposefully eliminate the thousands of competitive horses and 104,000 documented Florida jobs they annually create in Florida’s legitimate Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse and Standardbred racing and breeding industry, while enabling these facilities to be licensed for cardrooms and—if ultimately allowed by the Legislature—slot machines.

“Hence the statewide rush by counties such as Gadsden, Hamilton and Washington to hedge their bets this year with speculative slot referendums.

“Because Florida law requires live racing in order to hold ancillary gaming activities, facility owners —some of them out-of-state tribal gaming corporations—see Gretna Racing LLC’s “pari-mutuel barrel racing” model as an opportunity to not only curtail the expense of jobs that would normally be created by legitimate horse racing, but to hoard the resulting profits that would otherwise be distributed in purses through independent horsemen’s associations.

Florida Senate Committee on Gaming


Senator Garrett Richter (R)
Vice Chair:
Senator Maria Lorts Sachs (D)


  • John Guthrie, Staff Director

2013 Meeting Records

12/03/2012 03:00 PM Meeting NoticeMeeting Canceled