Gadsden County slot referendum based on illegal barrel racing; Florida Pari-Mutuel Division awards Gretna license with no enabling legislation, regulatory hearings or public input
By authorizing a pari-mutuel wagering license to Gretna Racing, LLC, the State of Florida has unlawfully legalized an entirely new form of gambling, explained an administrative petition filed with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering on November 3, 2011.
In a unilateral move that was made with no legislative action, regulatory review or public hearings, the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel wagering legalized an entirely new form of gambling that has never before been authorized or approved in Florida, the petition relates. Instead of flat-track Quarter Horse racing, as the law intends, Gretna has indicated it will conduct pari-mutuel wagering on “barrel racing,” a timed rodeo event, which is widely understood to be an end-run attempt to bypass the State of Florida’s live racing requirements upon which the operation of a 365-day per year poker room and, ultimately, slot machines, are contingent.
The petition is endorsed by nearly 450,000 Florida and national horsemen nationwide, including the:
• National and Florida Barrel Horse Association (24,000 members)
• American Quarter Horse Association (350,000 national members; 7,163 Florida members)
• 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)
According to the American Horse Council, each legitimate racehorse creates at least seven jobs. Because Gretna’s planned barrel racing uses fewer horses per pari-mutuel performance than legitimate horse racing, the ultimate result is a widespread loss of Florida horse racing industry jobs, particularly in the breeding industry and agricultural sectors.
Given the current intensity of State of Florida job-creation efforts, the State’s sanction of illegal barrel racing, resulting in the unwitting destruction of Florida’s $2.2 billion horse racing industry—an annual employer of 51,700 statewide—was noted as a travesty.
Neither Gretna, nor the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering has publicly revealed the specifics of regulatory oversight that would apply to legitimate horse racing, such as jockey and trainer licensing, drug testing and identification of horses, and types of wagers and state accounting of wagering and purse allocations—regulations designed to both protect the betting public and create jobs.
Further, although Gretna has never conducted legitimate flat-track Quarter Horse racing as the law intends, nor has it yet constructed a regulation flat-track during the years that have passed since its initial announcement several years ago that it would do so, the facility has scheduled its 41 days of “racing” to fall during the December 2011 and January 2012 time-span, so as to further leverage the law by technically meeting Florida’s two-year live racing requirement for slot machines within a mere two months.
Only Republican Gadsden residents will be allowed to vote on whether to approve Gretna’s slot machines on the January 31, 2012 Republican Presidential Preference Ballot. The vast majority of Gadsden voters are Democrats.