In the wake of the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering’s highly questionable approval of “pari-mutuel barrel racing” at Gretna Racing LLC, and the Division’s subsequent flat refusal to even hold a public hearing on the question of whether these actions were, in fact, legal, the United Florida Horsemen issued the following statement:
“As the Florida Legislature moves inexorably towards the January commencement of the 2012 Session, the gambling landscape across the state has exploded into chaos. Slot machines are breeding rampantly. Millions of dollars are being spent to further the approval of huge destination resorts. And even more insidiously, the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering has unilaterally approved ‘pari-mutuel barrel racing’ as a brand new gambling product in Florida by allowing Gretna Racing, LLC to exploit Florida’s lack of a statutory definition of ‘horse racing.’
In doing so, the Division has somehow completely evaded any public scrutiny or accountability by not only denying a fair hearing on the issue, but also by its denial creates further legal roadblocks to revealing how and why it would make such a highly questionable approval. If a law is vague, it should be the Legislature’s role to clarify it, rather than have a regulatory agency take it upon itself to pre-emptively usurp that power. Thus, by creating this new gambling product, the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering has irresponsibly opened the floodgates to expanded gambling. To make matters worse, in condoning this mockery of the law, the State of Florida is actually killing jobs instead of creating them. ‘Pari-mutuel barrel racing’ is deliberately designed to sharply curtail the number of competing horses and essentially replace them with slot machines. That equals many fewer Florida jobs.
On behalf of nearly 450,000 Florida and national horsemen in eight horsemen’s associations, which include the National Barrel Horse Association and the American Quarter Horse Association, the United Florida Horsemen deplore the Division’s misguided and unfortunate decision to deny our comprehensive petitions against these illegal actions. Without the proper light shed on this dubious action, the outcome will severely impact Florida’s multi-billion dollar horse racing industry. An industry that employs more people and creates more economic impact than any other form of Florida gambling combined.
In fact, were it not for the solid platform of Florida’s successful horse racing industry, upon which our Legislature has always depended for consistent economic development and healthy revenue generation, Floridians would not have ever seen fit to allow other forms of gambling to co-exist. Now that this trust has been broken through the Division’s sanction of Gretna Racing LLC’s clever lawyering and loophole exploitation, Florida is deluged with wanton slot machine and gambling proliferation. And the Legislature will soon find itself nearly powerless to control the monster.”