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 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.

Paulick Report Videos Reveal Florida’s Dirty Parimutuel Secret–Phony Horse “Racing”

Paulick Report Videos of South Marion Real Estate Holdings Oxford Downs

 

Paulick Report publisher Ray Paulick and his crew visited the latest Florida phony horse racing venue, South Marion Real Estate Holdings’ “Oxford Downs” yesterday, July 1, 2014.

The slate of videos they returned with was nothing short of shocking . . . take your pick below!   We especially enjoyed how the Oxford Downs “staff” (complete with child holding 5-iron) had to call for reinforcements upon Ray’s arrival at the “front gate!”

Despite Florida Horsemen’s Written Complaint and Court Rulings, Regulators Approve More Phony Marion County Horse “Races” Today

Despite related court rulings and a written complaint filed with the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering by the United Florida Horsemen about the blatant misuse of a pari-mutuel permit issued to “South Marion Real Estate Holdings,” horse-based competitions are nevertheless scheduled to take place at the permitholder’s facility (known as “Oxford Downs”) today, July 1, 2014.

Billed as legitimate horse races, the two-horse competitions are essentially a mockery of actual horse racing, and have raised deep concern about animal welfare and regulatory standards among Florida’s horse racing owners, trainers and breeders.

“We, and our many members, are appalled by the continuing disrespect and disregard for well-established industry standards and practices by a few businessmen looking for a shortcut to poker room profits,” the United Florida Horsemen wrote to Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering Director Leon Biegalski in its May 27, 2014 complaint, to which no response has been received to date.

To read the entire United Florida Horsemen complaint, click here.

Critically, the “Oxford Downs” horse competitions are designed to sharply curtail horsemen’s participation, so as to presumably limit the positive economic activity that would normally be generated by thousands of horses and their caretakers present at a normal race meeting—creating jobs and strengthening Florida’s economy, but removing gambling profits from “Oxford Downs’” bottom line.

“These charades would almost be comical if they didn’t have such a corrosive effect on the integrity and viability of our industries and if they didn’t result in lost jobs and livelihoods—not to mention the negative impact they have on the basic character of the pari-mutuel industry in Florida . . . “the United Florida Horsemen wrote, referring to the horse racing industry’s annual billion-dollar economic impact.

The United Florida Horsemen include the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association, and the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association.  The organizations comprise nearly 10,000 Florida racehorse owners, trainers and breeders who do business in Florida.

 

Florida Horsemen to Testify at Pensacola, Jacksonville Senate Gaming Committee Hearings This Week

Florida Horse Racing, Florida Thoroughbred Racing, Florida Quarter Horse Racing

Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse Racehorse Owner, Trainer and Breeder Representatives to Speak at Both November 14 and 15 Hearings

Leadership representatives from Florida’s most prominent racehorse owners, trainers and breeders associations will be on hand to testify at both Florida Senate Gaming Committee public hearings this week, Thursday, November 14 in Pensacola, and Friday, November 15 in Jacksonville.

Scheduled to speak at both hearings is Teresa Palmer, a Board member of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (FHBPA), as well as a member of the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association.  She will represent Thoroughbred owners, trainers and breeders.

At the November 15 Jacksonville hearing, Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association Board Member John Shaw will address the panel of lawmakers.   Mr. Shaw also represents the Florida Quarter Horse Breeders’ and Owners’ Association.  Both Quarter Horse organizations are part of the American Quarter Horse Association, an international organization of over 350,000 members.

“The fact that these two individuals have the degree of involvement in the Florida horse racing industry they do is a good indicator of just how far-reaching our economic impact is,” explained FHBPA Executive Director Kent Stirling.  “Our goal is to convey that to our legislators as they contemplate the implications of future public policy on our members’ businesses and their employees.”

To view the complete list of speakers and agenda for the November 14 Pensacola hearing, click HERE.

To view the complete list of speakers and agenda for the November 15 Jacksonville hearing, click HERE.

Both hearings will be Webcast LIVE on www.TheFloridaChannel.org and on the Florida Senate video page at www.flsenate.gov/Media/#broadcast