The United Florida Horsemen, which comprises the organizations listed below, issued the following statement subsequent to the November 1, 2011 decision by the Gadsden County Commission to put a referendum on the January 31, 2012 Republican Presidential Ballot that would ask voters whether they want to approve slot machines at Gretna Casino:
“We maintain that “barrel racing” is not defined as “horse racing” under Florida law.”
• National and Florida Barrel Horse Association (24,000 members)
• American Quarter Horse Association (350,000 national members; 7,163Floridamembers)
• Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association (439 members)
• U.S. Trotting Association (25,000 members)
• Florida Standardbred Owners and Breeders Association (630 members)
• Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association (1,300 members)
• National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (35,000 members)
• Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (5,000 members)
Real Horse Racing Employs More People
Bona fide, legal horse racing simply creates more jobs than all slots, casinos and barrel racing gimmicks combined.
Since a racetrack hosting 1,000 horses per season creates an average of 7,000 jobs,Floridahorse racing contributes to a documented 51,700 jobs and $2.2 billion annual economic impact. These jobs include positions such as admissions personnel, mutuels clerks, track maintenance professionals, groundskeepers, security guards, concessions workers, track and state racing officials, executives, marketing and public relations professionals. And that’s just the “frontside.” On the average backstretch of a real racetrack, positions include incoming farm personnel, veterinarians, trainers, jockeys, exercise riders, grooms, hotwalkers, blacksmiths, feed and bedding distributors, equipment vendors, drivers, and even bookkeepers and chaplains.
Legitimate horse racing inspires people to come toFloridafor its warm climate and the type of horse-friendly culture that has madeOcalaandMarionCountyworld famous. There, breeders have set up the type of rolling, picturesque farms that the people ofGadsdenCountyand the City ofGretnawere promised –the type of prestigious, family businesses that truly grow a racetrack into a community tradition.
The Economics of True Horse Racing
In traditional pari-mutuel horse racing, “purses” (prize money) are derived as a percentage of “handle” (amount of money wagered). InFlorida, real Quarter Horse racing offers purses of nearly $4 million, which are monitored and prescribed by the protections of state and federal law. In stark contrast,Gretna barrel racing will afford only an arbitrarily set amount of $38,000, which is not derived as a percentage of handle.
Under federal law, a track must enable participating horsemen to be part of the purse-setting process. BecauseGretnaracing literally owns its own horsemen’s group, that safeguard is eliminated through a forced agreement. That agreement eliminates members’ negotiation rights, which are also protected under federal law.
Barrel Racing: The Cheap Excuse for Slots
Barrel racing events atGretnawill be conducted with two horses at a time rather than a field of horses. Because single barrel horses typically run multiple events in short time periods, declaring a “race meet” of barrel racers literally requires only a fraction of the number of horses it would take to hold a real horse racing meet. With fewer horses, track owners only need to make minimal accommodations for horses and their caretakers. This translates into even fewer jobs created.
AtGretna’s facility, overnight stalls and accommodations have yet to be built. Because the proposed barrel racing requires fewer horses and thereby less personnel, this effectively eliminates the seven jobs per horse (and the resultant economic infrastructure) with which real horse racing can legitimately benefit a community.
In fact, the entire 41 days of Gretna Racing’s “meet” could actually be conducted with only 24 horses, over which no regulatory controls have been placed to ensure the integrity and uniformity of the race process, thus leaving the question of whether the public betting interest is protected.