The controversial Gretna barrel racing venue in North Florida isn’t exactly blowing the turnstiles off their hinges. According to figures from the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, the first month of pari-mutuel barrel racing produced a handle of $30,312. That’s $1,500 per day – or $200 per race.
Below is a press release from the United Florida Horsemen, a group which continues to fight the licensing of barrel racing operations as a way to secure other forms of gambling, such as slots and card rooms.
Together with former third-generation Gulfstream Park attorney David Romanik, Gulfstream Park lobbyist Marc Dunbar is the part-owner of Gretna Racing, LLC, which is causing a deliberate horse racing industry decimation and dramatic loss of State revenue by having unilaterally introduced “pari-mutuel barrel racing” in North Florida. This outright mockery of Florida law is enabled by these individuals’ own non-profit corporation known as the “North Florida Horsemen’s Association.”
Because the “North Florida Horsemen’s Association” is controlled by Gretna Racing owners Dunbar and Romanik, revenues from Gretna’s cardrooms and, ultimately, slot machines, can easily be funneled back to their self-owned Gretna Racing, LLC, not distributed to the “North Florida Horsemen’s Association” members who have unwittingly signed away their State and Federal purse negotiating rights (copy of the NFHA “Pledge” is attached). These unsuspecting horsemen and women don’t realize that their rights to Gretna Racing’s revenues would otherwise be ensured under both Florida law and the Federal Interstate Horse Racing Act of 1978, the intent of which was never to have tracks own their own horsemen’s unions, since without ensuring lucrative purses to attract competitors, horse racing of any kind ceases to be a proper economic driver and job creator for any state.
If legitimate Quarter Horse racing sanctioned by the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association (“FQHRA”) was taking place at Gretna Racing instead, these horsemen’s interests would otherwise be lawfully protected.
What’s worse, the irony is that legitimate Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association sanctioned Quarter Horse racing at Hialeah Park is out-earning Gretna “pari-mutuel barrel racing” by 99.1 percent, as reported to the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering. Gretna only pays $19.64 per day in pari-mutuel taxes.
With only 36 horses needed to complete Gretna’s entire “pari-mutuel barrel racing” meet, versus nearly 1,000 that are stabled right now at Hialeah Park, the FQHRA’s success in turn, spurs economic development and job creation in both the racing and breeding industries since that revenue is properly shared with horsemen according to State and Federal law, thanks to the FQHRA. As further evidence, Hialeah’s legitimate Quarter Horse meet has 803 licensed pari-mutuel employees registered at its facility, whereas Gretna Racing has only 38 comparable licensees. Documented attendance at Hialeah Park averages 4,100 per day. The Associated Press and other major media reported Gretna Racing to attract only 20-50 people per day.
But the fact is, Dunbar and Romanik are actually now profiting at Gretna Racing from the very same business plan that they, themselves are suing the law-abiding horsemen’s associations for. During 2011, Dunbar and Romanik launched a spurious lawsuit against the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association and the Florida Quarter Horse Breeders’ and Owners’ Association in which they claim damage from what the Florida Legislature ordained these statutory organizations to do: Protect horsemen’s rights.
Nearly 450,000 members of United Florida Horsemen feel that the Florida Legislature should not support or negotiate with any person or entity that is currently engaged in a lawsuit designed to destroy horsemen’s livelihoods through self-dealing by means of dummy, self-owned horsemen’s associations designed exclusively to funnel pari-mutuel, card room and slot machine profits back to the track owners, rather than to properly disburse it to horsemen according to law.