On Monday, Feb. 4, Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association President Dr. Steve Fisch, explained that “Florida would hear a giant sucking sound” if the State were to lose the widespread economic impact of its $2.2 billion horse racing industry. Dr. Fisch was one of several witnesses invited to speak to the Florida Senate Gaming Committee, and was addressing the legislature on behalf of Florida’s Quarter Horse, Thoroughbred and Standardbred industries.
Dr. Fisch was joined in person by Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association Executive Director Kent Stirling, who represents nearly 6,000 Thoroughbred owners and trainers, 4,000 of whom reside in Florida.
“We urge our legislators to fully understand Dr. Fisch’s plea today to ‘stop the exodus of Florida horses and money,’” Stirling said. “Horse breeders need their assurance that Florida is prepared to stop the recent rash of phony horse events causing the problem. They want to know opportunity for legitimate competition is alive here, and that our policymakers take their business investment in Florida seriously.”
As documented in national reports, an increasing number of Florida pari-mutuels have misused their state-granted gambling permits to hold events that are not only afoul of state and federal law, but are deliberately designed to destroy jobs by eliminating the need for horses and competitors in Florida’s $2.2 billion horse racing industry, which employs over 104,000 people annually.
Florida’s Thoroughbred racing industry, which alone employs over 51,000 Floridians annually, is responsible for producing four of the past seven Kentucky Derby winners, Dr. Fisch told the Senate Committee on Gaming today. He explained that every horse produced on a Florida breeding farm spawns support businesses and produces seven full-time jobs. These jobs include feed dealers, hay farmers, farriers, veterinarians, racetrack operations personnel, horse trainers, equipment and tack dealers, grooms, exercise riders and hospitality industry personnel who serve incoming horsemen.
Florida’s horse racing industry ranks among the top three states nationally. Ocala-Bred Thoroughbreds dominated this year’s Breeders’ Cup—the Super Bowl of Thoroughbred Racing. In additional testament to the strength of Florida’s breeding industry, a Florida-based Thoroughbred breeder purchased 2011 Horse of the Year Havre de Grace last year for $10 million dollars.
“It is imperative that the development of any long-term gaming policy by Florida’s Legislature take into account the $2.2 billion annual economic impact of Florida’s horse racing industry,” Stirling emphasized. “Legitimate horse racing in Florida employs over 104,000 people annually, and is responsible for our Ocala-based horse breeding industry annually ranking among the top three states in the nation.”
Stirling added. “Let me be clear: Our hard-working horsemen will not allow the recent rash of phony horse-related events to enable a greedy few to squander our enormous job-creation engine for the people of Florida, or make a mockery of our state to the international horse racing community.”
Both the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association and the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association have strongly questioned both the legality and use of the phony horse events, which have been deliberately designed to drastically curtail the usual thousands of horses needed for a normal race meet down to as few as two horses—thus completely eliminating thousands of jobs that would otherwise be needed to support normal racing activities, such as racetrack operations, racehorse training and ancillary breeding industries that drive the horse racing industry’s enormous Florida economic impact.
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