Following the recent wave of popular support for expanded slot machines throughout the state, the Florida legislature created a committee to study the impact of gaming in the state, and how best to implement some of the initiatives that were passed in 2012. Though the committee got off to a slower than expected start, it seems prepared to discuss the many issues that go along with expanded gambling in Florida.
After its initial meeting was canceled during early December, the Florida Senate’s new Gaming Committee announced recently that it will convene on January 14 and 22, 2013 during the Legislature’s regular Interim Committee Week schedules. According to most sources, the committee will also meet three times in February, in addition to holding
a reported 4 “redistricting-type” meetings around the state in an effort to get public comment on the gaming issue .
“I am confident I speak for the 104,000 Floridians employed annually by the horse racing industry that we are very encouraged by Chairman Garrett Richter’s commitment to do a complete economic analysis of all gambling in the state,” added Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association Executive Director Kent Stirling. “Horse racing generates $2.2 billion a year for Florida and draws global interest to our state. Because the precipitous side effects of both existing and proposed gaming policies have not yet been duly considered, members of the Senate Gaming Committee will certainly be shocked to learn that we are already killing thousands of Florida jobs during this past year—not creating them.”
Recently, certain Florida pari-mutuel permitholders have been allowed to open cardrooms and apply for slot machine licenses under the pretense of conducting phony horse-related events such as “pari-mutuel barrel racing” that are purposefully designed to drastically eliminate the need for competing horses, horse breeding and the many jobs and economic impact these activities create.
“Would Florida rather have slot machines and many, many more jobs and businesses? Or slot machines and just a few jobs?” Stirling remarked. “That’s the difference between having real horse racing and allowing these rapacious imposters to continue their scheme.”
Allowed as a brand new gambling product without enabling legislation, regulatory hearings or public input, activities such as “pari-mutuel barrel racing” and its copycat hybrid activities have rapidly spread throughout the State as a work-around to cardrooms and slot machines at the expense of horse racing that would otherwise result in the creation tens of thousands of jobs and businesses. Wagering handle as low as $24 a day has been recorded for “pari-mutuel barrel racing,” with the resulting state pari-mutuel taxes generated plummeting to less than $20 a day.
The barrel racing controversy is only one of many issues that the committee will have to sort through.
The big news this past week on this issue is that the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering declined to give a declaratory statement on whether GPTARP (Gulfstream’s non-profit Quarter Horse permit,) was the “lowest revenue generator” for a certain time period (which would have qualified it to get a “summer jai alai” permit (on top of the QH permit).
Another issue with this is that GPTARP is now in Florida Administrative Court over the question of what county it’s domiciled in . This is very pivotal because Gulfstream actually sprawls over both Broward and Miami-Dade counties, but is domiciled in Broward. If GPTARP is declared to be domiciled in Miami-Dade, that would mean Gulfstream could use its races to base a freestanding casino on the south end of its property (thereby shutting out the horsemen from any revenue) OR could lease the permit to other permit holders in Miami-Dade . The Elections examiner has contacted Gulfstream Park via email for comments on this story, but has yet to receive any response.
The gaming business is a growing industry in the state of Florida, and across the country. Hopefully the Florida Legislature will be able to provide at least some appearance of guidance to reign in the quasi-casinos, phony horse races, and other questionable gaming practices, and increase the size of the Florida coffers at the same time. We’ll just have to wait and see.
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