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 horsemen caught in corporate behemoth standoff over Intertrack Wagering power struggle–National and Local News Coverage

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:  National and local media coverage of Florida horsemen caught in corporate behemoth standoff over Intertrack Wagering power struggle

(Click a headline below to read the complete story)

Louisville Courier-Journal:  As South Florida “datesmageddon” approaches, horsemen call for truce

The Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association Executive Director Executive Director Kent Stirling said, “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.”

Paulick Report:  Florida Racing Dates—Is It Really About Live Racing?

Somewhere, in the convoluted Chapter 550 of Florida statutes covering pari-mutuel wagering is language stating that pari-mutuel facilities wishing to import Thoroughbred simulcasts have to buy the signal from the track currently offering live racing. The selling track gets two-thirds of the net revenue, with the simulcast facility getting one-third.

Ocala Star-Banner:  Florida’s thoroughbred groups fear industry could be gutted by track dispute

Florida thoroughbred horsemen worry the continuing fight between Calder Race Course and Gulfstream Park over racing dates will ultimately ravage breeders, owners and thousands of others who make a living in the racing industry.

Daily Racing Form:  Florida horsemen’s groups ask for cooperation between Gulfstream, Calder

The Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association Executive Director Kent Stirling warned that the overlapping dates not only might risk over-extending the state’s human and equine populations, but also fragment the wagering dollar and divert resources needed to tackle other challenges facing the state’s Thoroughbred industry, such as pari-mutuel barrel racing.

Paulick Report:  Florida Horsemen’s Groups Urge Tracks to Settle Differences

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.

Florida Voices:  Gulfstream, Calder Overdue in Settling Dates Conflict

Done right, horse racing and breeding affords Florida with enormous economic impact because of all the jobs and businesses it creates.  But, overlapping dates can drain the local horse population and fragment wagering dollars — making it difficult for the entire industry to prosper.

Wire to Wire:   Florida’s Horsemen urge South Florida tracks to settle differences

Lonny Powell, a former horse racing regulator and track operator, who now serves as CEO of the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association said,  “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.”

Blood Horse:  Rumor That Stronach is Buying Calder Denied

A Florida law requires a race track or jai-alai fronton to have a minimum number of pari-mutuel performance days to obtain and retain a casino license.  To do that, Calder must have at least 80 race days each year.

Calder Casino Owner Churchill Downs Posts Record Earnings

Churchill Downs Incorporated, home of the Kentucky Derby and parent company of Calder Casino and Race Course, has released its financial results for the first quarter of 2013 showing that it achieved record revenues for the period of $148.07 million.

Citing “Low Attendance,” Gretna Racing Cancels “Open Barrel Racing;” Poker and Cardrooms Allowed to Continue, While Slots Loom

Resultant horse racing industry job loss continues as pari-mutuels leverage “Gretna Model” to bypass Florida’s live racing requirements for slot machines

Opening for “pari-mutuel barrel racing” once again today, October 5, 2012, despite an imminent court ruling on the legality of its racing license, Creek Entertainment Gretna concurrently announced on its Web site that its remaining “open races” for 2012 have been canceled “due to low attendance.”

The North Florida gaming entity was awarded the spurious license by the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering nearly one year to date, allowing it to conduct the brand new gambling product of “pari-mutuel barrel racing” without enabling legislation, regulatory hearings or public input.

“It is the lowest of ironies that Gretna Racing’s card and poker room continues to stay open 365 days a year,” said Kent Stirling, Executive Director of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, which represents over 6,000 Florida Thoroughbred horsemen.

“This regulatory nightmare has meant the loss of countless Florida jobs and economic impact, not to mention the tax revenue that could have helped our economy if legitimate racing had otherwise been held at Gretna,” Stirling continued.  “Even worse, hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer funds have been expended by the State of Florida to defend Gretna’s questionable license award.”

“Because the spurious ‘Gretna Model’ has been allowed to continue by Florida’s Legislature and pari-mutuel regulators, permitholders across the state are lining up to bastardize legitimate racing and capitalize on its fundamental platform of side-stepping Florida’s legal requirements for live racing in order to have slot machines,” FHBPA President Phil Combest explained.  “This includes every single Quarter Horse permitholder except Hialeah Park, the only place at which legitimate Quarter Horse racing is being held in Florida.”

“Pari-mutuel barrel racing” has failed so badly, that wagering handles as low as $24 per day have been recorded.  Because Florida does not legally define what a “horse race” is, regulators allowed Gretna to proceed, without regard for its impact on Florida’s $2.2 billion dollar horse racing industry and the 50,000 jobs it creates annually.

Meanwhile, legitimate Quarter Horse racing at Hialeah Park, the only Florida racing legally accredited by the American Quarter Horse Association for its high standards, averaged 4,100 daily attendees and handled an average of $200,000 for each day of its 2011-2012 race meet.  Because of Hialeah Park’s success, purses for legitimate Quarter Horse have risen to an all-time Florida high of over $4 million dollars for 2012-2013.

Nearly 1,000 horses were housed at Hialeah during its Quarter Horse meet.  In contrast, at Gretna, the entire 2011-2012 season used approximately 50 horses—thus eliminating the many of the jobs that would have otherwise been generated there and in the local horse breeding industry.

At least 800 documented licensed personnel are employed at the Hialeah meet, while Gretna has a comparable 38 documented licensees.