An application by Gretna Racing LLC to use its Quarter Horse permit to conduct pari-mutuel barrel racing at its facility in Gretna, Fl., approximately 25 miles west of Tallahassee, was approved by the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering late in the day on Oct. 19 despite opposition from horsemen’s groups throughout the state.
Gretna Racing announced plans to begin a 40-race card meet on Dec. 1, 2011, which would mark the first pari-mutuel barrel racing in Florida. Gretna Racing also indicated it will have a year-round poker room, according to Marc Dunbar, an attorney who is a 10 percent owner of Gretna Racing.
The Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association (FTBOA) has joined together with other Florida horsemen’s groups, including the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (FHBPA), the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association and Florida Standardbred Breeders and Owners in opposition of Gretna’s plans. All four associations maintain that pari-mutuel barrel racing is not authorized under the state’s laws.
“The FTBOA recognizes this as a serious threat to Florida racing and Florida’s Thoroughbred industry,” said FTBOA President Phil Matthews. “Our efforts are focused on stopping it before it starts.”
In addition to the FTBOA, some of the groups on record denouncing the pari-mutuel barrel racing project are: the FHBPA (5,000 Florida members); the American Quarter Horse Association (7,163 Florida members); the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association (439 Florida members); the Florida Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association (630 members); and the U.S. Trotting Association (25,000 members).
The FTBOA and the FHBPA have sent letters to the Florida DPMW and its parent agency, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, asking them to reject Gretna Racing’s application.
“It’s apparent that the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) is basically turning a blind eye to the regulatory issues that they have enforced upon our industry in the past,” Matthews said. “The Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association has raised many legitimate, common sense questions surrounding this permit request that have all been dismissed by the DBPR. Frankly, I find it very peculiar and it forces our hand to seek relief through a judicial ruling to halt Gretna’s plans.”
According to a press release, The National Barrel Horse Association State Director Linda Jones wrote a letter to Ken Dawson, secretary of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, making it clear where the NBHA stands.
“Florida NBHA does not and will not endorse this endeavor,” Jones wrote in her letter to Secretary Lawson. “With over 1,400 statewide members and 2,400 national members, the NBHA’s Florida Division is the largest in the international organization, which has 24,000 members and affiliates in 12 different countries.
Jones further added; “We wholeheartedly lend our support to the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association and the United Horsemen of Florida and seek denial in allowing pari-mutuel wagering on barrel racing in the state of Florida,”
According to published reports, Gretna’s application lists David Romanik, a former Gulfstream Park president, and Paul McGee, a Tallahassee attorney, each with 10 percent ownership. Dunbar, a partner in the Pennington Law Firm in Tallahassee, also is a lobbyist for Gulfstream Park and for several gaming equipment companies.
“Today (Thursday) we conducted a conference call between representatives of and legal counsel for the FBPHA, the FQHRA and the FSBO,” Matthews said. “All of us are in agreement that his should not be allowed to stand and are taking whatever measures available to us to prevent pari-mutuel barrel horse racing from the beginning. We are allied on this front and will pool our resources in this effort.”